Corridor 8 (Коридор 8) is a people to people video podcast that was launched by Georgi from Bulgaria and Tane from North Macedonia. The two countries’ relations have plummeted due to Bulgaria’s veto of North Macedonia’s due to the historical controversies. Although relations have not been good for decades thanks to efforts of Yugoslavia to prevent contact between the two people. The goal of the Corridor 8 (Коридор 8) podcast is to build friendship and good neighborliness through dialogue between both countries. In this interview, we spoke with Georgi who is one half of the podcast as Tane is currently experiencing a busy period at work.
Q: From where did you get the idea or inspiration to start Corridor 8?
A: About a year ago I noticed that on social networks, users from Macedonia and Bulgaria would often argue on historical issues and be offensive to one another. I have also seen trolls who deliberately create provocations and use hate speech, but there is a lack of dialogue on common topics. In general, there is a deficit in normal interpersonal relationships. The vast majority of people in Macedonia and Bulgaria have no immediate personal experience with the “others”, do not communicate with each other and do not know each other, and puppeteers use media and social networks to create tension between them. I admit that I felt personally affected by the negative image of the Bulgarian in the Macedonian consciousness. Thousands of voivodes and rebels of the IMRO were born in today’s Bulgaria, went to Macedonia as volunteers, died for people whom they perceived as their brothers, and today these people are doomed to oblivion by their descendants. It’s a pity. If our ancestors were brothers in a common struggle, can’t there be at least a modicum of respect between us? Instead, primary malice and hatred spread. In Macedonia, hatred for Bulgaria is a profitable business and involves politicians, media people, trolls, and hence people are set against Bulgarians. Remember the scandal with the singer Vasil Garvanliev – it revealed the essence of Bulgarophobia. However, I also realized that when they tell you that you are a “Tatar”, a “faggot” or a “fascist”, or that Bulgarian women cost “two cents”, the right way is not to answer in the same manner. This is what trolls and their bosses expect. On the other hand, some Bulgarians do not understand the processes in Macedonia in the past hundred years and regurgitate the same things. The very idea of Corridor 8 came to me by chance in the summer of 2020, precisely because I have been thinking of this vicious circle of communication between us that must be broken in order to circumvent the influence of politicians, the media and trolls. I thought for a while, I had an insight, and I said to myself „That’s it! A show in which modern Bulgarians and Macedonians meet and talk!” This is the idea of ”Corridor 8″ – let Bulgarians get to know modern Macedonia and Macedonians – modern Bulgaria. We do not live only with history; we live here and now. Let’s learn more about our interests and talents, about culture, about everyday life, and so on. This is a two-way street and a two-way process. And now, when I meet trolls posting new provocations, I do get hurt, but I say to myself “Our love is stronger than your hatred” and I respond with a new episode of “Corridor 8”. 🙂
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced in this project?
A: One of the challenges is finding participants for the show. Some people refuse to participate for various reasons – some do not have the confidence to stand in front of a camera in live streaming, others have other considerations, etc. The second challenge is that we do not have good equipment. For a good broadcast, it is important to have a fast internet connection, a good computer, cameras, microphones, lighting. It’s always better to produce higher quality sound and video because in addition to the quality of the show itself, the technical aspect of the broadcast retains viewers. Everyone prefers to watch and listen to a video with clear sound and image. The third challenge is to make “Corridor 8” is the limited spare time we have to find people, to prepare, to be present on social media, and so on. It is also a challenge to teach viewers, especially new ones, who have not watched the first shows, that we have some red lines in the show and we do not discuss controversial history topics. There are enough channels and forums in which people can prove historical truths, argue, call their opponents names, but not in “Corridor 8.” We don’t talk about controversial issues, instead, we talk about wine, brandy, music, and all sorts of other things in life. Finally, it is a challenge for me personally to stand in front of the camera because I am an introvert.
Q: I saw that in one of your videos you mentioned that you want to tour cities in Northern Macedonia and Bulgaria. Are you still planning to do this?
A: Yes, we want to travel the Transport Corridor №8 from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea. Along the way, we will stop at important places, spend time in cities to meet some of our participants in person. From every place and meeting, we will stream a show for our regular viewers on YouTube, and if we get richer, we can make a documentary. There is a lot to show because Bulgarians know only a few basic destinations in Macedonia, and Macedonians know only Sofia, Kyustendil, and Blagoevgrad, and that’s it. Experts present Corridor №8 as an opportunity for economic development, and we hope that with such a trip we will increase the interest in the corridor as an opportunity for cultural exchange, tourism, and above all for human connections from Drach to Varna and Burgas.
Q: In the long run, what would you like to achieve with Corridor 8 for relations between Northern Macedonia and Bulgaria?
A: We are not politicians, and we do not have the mechanisms to implement large-scale ideas and policies, so we have more modest goals. We want to build bridges and personal connections between people. We want to create a space for friendship. In 21st century Europe, human behavior should not be guided by hatred. We want to show another way of communication, to talk freely and without tension, to get to know each other and to gradually overcome the stereotypes and prejudices that existed between Yugoslavia and Bulgaria during the time of the “Iron Curtain”. We hope that more and more people on both sides of the border will watch our episodes and continue to build a community of like-minded people. Our viewers came up with a proposal to hold a fair at the border, perhaps in Gueshevo. Next year – a new fair, in Macedonia. And so on, year after year. People who have never met in person will meet at the fair, sit at a table and talk as friends.
Q: You have new guests in almost every episode of your online show. If you had to name three famous guests from North Macedonia and three famous guests from Bulgaria to participate in your show, who would they be?
A: From Bulgaria: the musician Teodosii Spasov, the actor Hristo Shopov and the writer Georgi Gospodinov. As a reserve, I will add the young actress Maria Bakalova, who looks like a very spontaneous girl with whom I would be happy to talk.
From Macedonia: the football player Goran Pandev, Bishop Parthenius from the Bigorski Monastery, and the duo Alexander and Dats, which we can count as one. 🙂
And apart from that, I would like to invite artists from both countries who have common projects and have already walked the way on their own Corridor 8: actors Yana Marinova and Igor Dzhambazov, pop singers Gery-Nikol and Slatkaristika, musicians Teodosii Spasov and Vlatko Stefanovski, quartet Destiny – three Bulgarian and one Macedonian musician who record with Alexander and Dats. There may be others, but these come to mind now.