Elena Ignatova covers Macedonia on Global Voices, is in charge of Global Voices in Macedonian, and works for the Metamorphosis Foundation, which seeks to seeks to enhance the use of information in Macedonian government and society. Among the posts we mention in the interview are: Macedonia: Use Facebook If You Want to Flirt With Politicians, The Balkans: “Whose Is This Song?”, and Macedonia: Student Protest Ends in Violence.
I'm Elena Ignatova. I'm an author for Global Voices and the Translation Manager for Macedonian and I'm working at Metamorphosis Foundation, which is an organization for the development of information society.
So, Macedonia is in the Balkans and it's the country that has problems with Greece and the name, but we are hoping that we will solve the problem very soon.
David: OK, so that's probably what it is best known for in an international sphere, but what do people not know about Macedonia that you have to tell them?
Elena: Well, it is a country that is very small. It has two million inhabitants. And it's very pleasant to live here because everybody knows each other and you will always find a person who welcomes you while you're walking through the streets.
David: You wrote a post about politicians on Facebook – Macedonian politicians – and I think there was a newspaper article that said “here's a way that Macedonians can flirt with politicians online.” But have you seen any evidence that people are using it to engage with their politicians and become more active politically?
Elena: I don't know. I didn't check the campaign afterward so I don't know what's actually happened. Because we had a research that we did about election campaigns for president and local elections. And most of the politicians didn't use new media or Facebook to react for their campaigns. So I'm not sure that they are using it so much.
David: Have you been in touch with any politicians via Facebook?
Elena: Because they are not answering questions. Because we were sending them questions through new media … not through new media only … but with emails, Facebook, Twitter but we didn't receive any feedback so I don't try anymore.
David: OK, so another story that you wrote about Facebook had to do
with a protest and a counter-protest about a proposed church that they want to build in the main plaza. Can you describe that?
Elena: Well, the protest was actually because the students of the architectural faculty didn't want that they build a church on the main square and the problem was that some people that were for the church came to the protest also and there was a conflict between the two groups so it ended badly.
David: How did it end?
Elena: Well, some of the students were beaten well, not beaten really, but they were attacked.
David: Do you think that in this case Facebook was a productive use to protest?
Elena: Yes because they were organizing everything through Facebook. Like sending invitations, planning the event, and everything. They didn't have a web page or email. Everything went through Facebook.
David: And now it looks likely that the church won't be build, right?
Elena: Yeah, probably.
David: You published another post about reactions to a documentary called “Whose Song is This” and I thought it was a really insightful look at the role of identity in Macedonia and the former Yugoslavia. Can you describe a little bit about the documentary itself and then also the reactions to it.
Elena: Well, the documentary was about a song that is translated into several languages in countries throughout the Balkans. And each country said that the song was theirs. And there were very good reactions because most of them were accepting the song. Like, “oh really? There is a song in that country?” It was very interesting. None of them were like, “this is our song.” Or something like that. But everyone was pleasantly surprised that the song was translated into other languages.
David: How do you choose what articles you translate into Macedonian?
Elena: Well I choose articles that are interesting for me. Basically, if there is some article connected with ICT or something like that I translate it. Because it is connected with my work. If not, I choose some article that is about new culture or somehow connected with new media or something like that. And some of the articles need to be short.
David: And what have you learned as a GV author and translator?
Elena: Well, I learned about many cultures and very important things about the lives of people in other countries because our main newspapers and portals don't report about stuff happening in other countries so it is very interesting to know what is happening in the world.
David: And you'll be seeing some other GV authors soon, right? At a conference?