Moscow has hosted its third annual Bitcoin & Blockchain Conference, gathering major industry players from both Russia and abroad to discuss the present state of fintech and its emerging perspectives.
Facilitated by the founder of the first Ukrainian bitcoin agency Kuna Michael Chobanian, Moscow conference attracted the interest of such influential Russian actors as Sberbank, Moscow Exchange, Qiwi, National Settlement Depository, and Higher School of Economics, with such international companies as Blockchain, Genesis Mining, Cyber.Fund and Emercoin joining in.
2016 has become the first year when “blockchain” was added to the name of the conference earlier referred to as “Bitcoin Conference Russia.” The step reflects the shift in perception of the technology, characteristic of both the country and the universal trends which have become apparent recently.
Throughout the last couple of years, Russia has been positioning itself as one of the countries keeping the harshest stance on bitcoin. At the same time, a few influential structures have been consistently advocating blockchain, and the position of the country’s official bodies on the technology has thus been far more propitious than that on so-called “money surrogates,” i.e. digital currencies.
The first speech delivered by a Russian-speaking spokesperson was dedicated to a matter as subtle as whether bitcoin “should” be banned or not. The speaker Sergei Antonyan, the head of research on financial technologies at the National Agency of Financial Studies, stated that 80% of common Russian citizens have never heard about bitcoin, 40% still being eager to ban the digital currency.
Artem Tolkachev, a lawyer running his own agency, spoke next, raising buzz in the audience as he clarified the measures which might be undertaken soon against those who mine, sale or use bitcoin on the territory of Russia. “Lets take it on the lam,” disclaimed one of the participants jokingly after Tolkachev reminded the audience about the plans of the Ministry of Finance to punish bitcoin enterpreneurs with up to 7 years in jail.
The “interesting regulatory climate,” as yet another speaker Paul Szurek put it, does not deprive the country of the benefits it has in relation to bitcoin’s future. In his report, the head of strategy and partnerships at Blockchain, claimed that the Russian market possesses huge potential since, as assessed by WBG, 33% of Russians are still unbanked. Moreover, those who save or borrow money are often reluctant to do so in a financial structure, which, according to Szurek, clearly shows that the level of credibility of the financial system is relatively low. These factors could attract common citizens to bitcoin, provided that they learn more about the digital currency, he said.
Regardless of the outcome the “unbelievable adventures of bitcoin in Russia” bring, both future and present of blockchain technology worldwide seems bright. That is what Dima Starodubtsev, the leader of Cyber.fund, made clear while reporting on the investment potential of the technology. Having listed a few impressive success stories related to the work of his numerous projects, Starodubtsev ended up announcing a DAO Ethereum based decentralized Investment Protocol (without disclosing further details about the project).
The growing interest towards Ethereum platform within the industry was not left unattended, too, with Alex Fork and his collegue Vladislav Martynov announcing their plans to bring the architect of the project Vitalik Buterin to Russia in the upcoming months.
Bitcoin Conference Russia initiated by Smile-Expo was held under the sponsorship of CoinsBank, CoinPayments, and United Business Angels.