In advance of the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference 2016 in Moscow, CoinFox spoke to Artem Tolkachev – a bitcoin lawyer and the official representative of Crypto Currencies Foundation Russia.
CoinFox: As one of the leaders of Russia’s blockchain community, what issues do you have to deal with the most? How would you describe its evolution and differences from (or similarities to) its Western counterparts?
Artem Tolkachev: For the most part, it is the issues of opinion consolidation over the regulation of the technology and future development of this regulation. For the moment, the community is a very decentralised structure. In my opinion, even too much decentralised. Concerning the evolution, as long as the technology is evolving, the community is driven by the progress of its members, most of whom are now growing rapidly.
CF: What may be the implications for the bitcoin community of the recent statement by the Ministry of Finance declaring bitcoin “not dangerous” for Russia’s financial system? What, in your opinion, are the reasons for such change of heart on behalf of the state and what may follow?
AT: This statement obviously indicates that a balanced analytic approach has prevailed over xenophobia. Over the last two years, as an active discussion was ongoing involving various working parties, the Ministry was wavering between the soft and the harsh stance [towards cryptocurrencies]. In private, the proponents of the tougher approach admitted that they did not see prohibitions and criminal liability as really necessary, however, they constantly referred to a certain political force behind it. Apparently, the progress of the technology and its positive acceptance by foreign jurisdictions have convinced even die-hard sceptics that it is more sensible to move forward rather than bluntly ban everything. Meanwhile, it is by no means obvious yet what form the regulation of cryptocurrency would take; the discussion is still going on both at Minfin and the Bank of Russia. I am sure that in the end, the regulation will be introduced, as well as, probably, liability for non-compliance.
CF: How would you define a realistic timescale for the introduction of the blockchain technology into Russia’s banking sector? What tasks it is the most suitable for?
AT: Several banks headed by the Central bank are now working to solve this question. In October, they announced the creation of the Fintech consortium, one of its focus areas being a search for usecases and implementation of the blockchain technology. I believe, within a year from now, we will see the practical application of the blockchain in the banking sector.
CF: How efficient, in your opinion, is state regulation of bitcoin in solving real-life problems, say, the way they do it in the US? Isn’t it a “thing in itself” only causing problems for business (is we consider bitcoin-friendly countries with little or no cryptocurrency regulation)?
AT: To speculate if regulation is appropriate in this or that jurisdiction is, by all means, an ungrateful task. Each regulator defines its own priority issues, both for itself and for the economy in general, and lays down requirements within the framework of existing practices. The US jurisdiction is traditionally quite heavy-handed in what concerns financial regulation, therefore their way to regulate cryptocurrencies seems rather consistent. Meanwhile, no local regulation of such a global phenomenon can by default eliminate all risks and solve all problems.
CF: What are your expectations of the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Russia 2016? What made you join the venue?
AT: The principal aim is to meet industry colleagues, discuss the perspectives, communicate our point of view and, possibly, dispel some myths that still exist.