It's been a rather eventful week in Russian crypto.
1. The First Deputy Prime Minister showed
support for the creation of a “crypto-ruble”, a state-backed cryptocurrency.
2. A spokesman for the Regulators called
for bitcoin to be regulated and only tradable by qualified investors on the MSE.
3. The same day Burger King Russia launches
the WhopperCoin, a loyalty scheme in the form of a crypto currency. Yes, that's right.
4. A day later, the Ethereum Foundation, represented by Vitalik himself, stroke
a partnership with state-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) aimed at supporting "its new blockchain research center, providing specialist training for distributed ledger technology and the ethereum platform".
5. The next day, that was called
a "misunderstanding" and the partnership was no longer between VEB and the EF but between VEB and a newly formed entity called Ethereum Russia (founded by Vitalik and the CEO of Yota Devices, a Russian company).
And this is after a company
co-owned by Putin's internet advisor announced
earlier in August a plan for a $100 million ICO to launch a bitcoin mining operation. Putin himself met
with Vitalik in June, when only a year ago there were talks at the Kremlin of introducing criminal penalties for bitcoin adopters and miners. Views changed rapidly!
While we are urged by a friend who knows the region well to take everything coming out of Russia with a "huge grain of salt", as corrupt power games tend to be portrayed as benevolent partnerships or endeavours, one can't ignore what's going on over there.
The Russian government is clearly starting to get the grips with the threat and the opportunity created by crypto currencies, and wants to ensure it stays right in the middle of the developments. And Russia isn't alone in worrying, we covered North Korea's crypto endeavours a few issues ago. Crypto seems to be worrying oppressive governments!
It's really starting to feel like crypto might develop into modern time's space race: nation states accumulate mining power today as a way to lock in international monetary hegemony of tomorrow.
Despite Vitalik's best intentions of widespread blockchain adoption, this feels like a dangerous game to play.