Bitcoin in Belarus: Shaping the Community and Seeking for Experts

There are few things known about Bitcoin in Belarus. Local officials can hardly be blamed for jumping into conclusions, and their statements, if any, are quite general. One of the rare instances is an official note from Belarusian Ministry of the Interior issued in 2014, where the department warns the citizens to avoid operations with bitcoin.

One most popular opinion is that Belarus actually waits until Russia has made up its mind in bitcoin’s regard to simply copypaste it. However, IT sector is well developed in Belarus, and it is mostly engaged in outsourcing. In addition, there are many bitcoin companies founded by those coming from Belarus, like gambling software developer SoftSwiss, Cryptonit exchange, or Bitok.com. However, notwithstanding the involvement of particular Belarusian companies in the cryptoindustry, the country still lacks any pronounced cryptocommunity. Official stance of the government as to bitcoin or blockchain technology is also unknown so far.

Valery Litvin, Bitcoin and blockchain developer in Belarus

Valery Litvin, Bitcoin and blockchain developer in Belarus

ForkLog (FL) talked with Valery Litvin (VL), a developer and bitcoin/blockchain expert, at BIP 001 conference, to find out how things are actually going in Belarus.

FL: What’s the situation with bitcoin and associated communities in Belarus?
VL: A community, in its capacity as such, is still not there. A few days ago I wondered how many full nodes are run in Belarus overall, and found that there are five at most. Speaking about bitcoin users, there are some. However, things are worse when it comes to experts and developers. My current task is assisting with establishment of local community. Lately, I made some acquaintances, which hopefully may help me in creating and establishing the Belarusian community. It worked perfectly in Ukraine, as it has its community and developers, business, and even authorities interested in developing innovative solutions.

FL: However, Belarus is famous for its developers. There are several worldwide projects built by Belarusians, after all.
VL: Yes, Belarus is among the world’s leaders in outsourcing services. Our Hi Tech Park consists of over 20 thousand coders and developers. The country has enormous potential, and I believe if we show people the new technologies, like bitcoin, blockchain, Ethereum, or smart contracts, if they truly get interested, we’ll have a big community. Anyway, we have to settle the regulation issue first, otherwise it may end up in a Russian way.

FL: Have you contacted with your regulators?
VL: Yes, I talked with designated persons during forums, meetings, and conferences. For now I may say that they keep a close look on bitcoin, and study the options offered by distributed systems like the blockchain technology. Currently, it requires a team of experts to carry out particular researching and promotion of the technologies.

FL: We know of a few bitcoin companies with Belarusian roots. Namely, they are cryptocasinos, or a couple of exchanges that originate from your country. Have you contacted them?

VL: I’d be excited to see them at the first meeting of bitcoin/blockchain enthusiasts scheduled for April. I believe it will be a meetup in one of Minsk’s event spaces. In addition, we set educational goals. I talked with local web development companies, and we agreed to hold a few training courses, for instance based on Princeton’s bitcoin course.

FL: Currently, various financial and government institutions become increasingly interested in the blockchain technology. Meanwhile, Bitcoin as it is fades into insignificance. What do you think about private blockchains?
VL: Bitcoin first. There are much more factors impacting the exchange rate than a few years ago. Volatility is still high. It is one of limitatioins hindering bitcoin’s propagation as means of payment. Anyway, demand for bitcoins will grow, and the exchange rate will follow its lead. As of today, cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin in the first place, are the most radical transformation of payment systems in the whole history of money.
As for the blockchain technology, I may say it’s capable of providing numerous advantages in particular areas. For instance, they are decentralization, anonymity, autonomous operation, or security. When it comes to private blockchains, it depends on a particular case. However, I believe that blockchain as a database is not the best or most efficient solution. Bitcoin is a mere application built on the substrate of the blockchain technology, and we may expect an eruption of new projects in various areas spanning from finances and property accounting to smart contracts, distributed calculations and public service. It all may change our lives in a short while.

FL: What do you think about current state of bitcoin, or its future?
VL: The community faces many unsolved problems, like the block size debate, scalability, or security. However, I’m absolutely sure bitcoin, as a new paradigm, is here to stay.

FL: Would you like to say something to our Belarusian readers?
VL: Sure. I’m happy Belarus has a strong IT community involving lots of great developers and interesting people. I’m just sorry we still lack communities around Bitcoin or blockchain, or some Ethereum-like project. I’d be excited if the community emerges, and will do my best to make it happen. After all, community is us. It would be wonderful if this feature becomes a start of something great.