The Tale of Bitcoin Community and Big Bad Roskomnadzor

Special Read in Russian

January 13th of 2015 has every right to bear the name of ‘black Tuesday’ in all history books of Bitcoin industry. That day, Bitcoin price dropped to $218, and comprised $166.45 the very next day. Russian Bitcoin community, however, suffered more than just Bitcoin price falling. Notorious Roskomnadzor blocked access to several Bitcoin sites within Russia under the Nevyansk court decision.

The blocking covered such portals as bits.media, bitcoinconf.ru, and coinspot.ru. International Bitcoin sites also suffered the blockage: those were bitcoin.org and Bitcoin wikipedia bitcoin.it.

Nevyansk: from Peter the Great to Bitcoin Blocking

Interestinly enough, the Nevyansk court delivered its judgement to block the sites as early as on September 30th, but none of the involved sites’ owners has ever received an invitation to the court session or has ever been notified their projects violate Russian laws. Anyway, it is hardly surprising just as the fact that the judgement had to be passed in a nowhereville in the very heart of Russia.

Small town of Nevyansk was founded under a decree by the last Tsar and the first Emperor of Russia, Peter I the Great. Symbolically, the town founded by one of the greatest reformers in Russia’s history has become a source of reactionist obscurantism of the contemporary government.

According to public association Rosmomsvoboda’s spokesperson Artem Kozlyuk, in Russia sites get blocked so often they receive relevant statements every other day.

“Those who dare to assert their rights in Russian courts are a minority. So every case they win is actually worth its weight in gold” Kozlyuk noted.

Fortunately, owners of two blocked sites (bits.media and bitcoinconf.ru) managed to coordinate their efforts and ventured to go litigating. This intention was expressed by Ivan Tikhonov in January. As it turns out, it’s not too difficult to win a case and discharge a blocking decision. The greatest problems the sites’ owners had to face was bureaucracy and additional expenses.

“Not too many cases are currently won their overall number goes into single digits. First of all, for all the time the site blocking law is in force, there hardly have been more than a couple dozen of such lawsuits initiated. Secondly, a positive and important touch to it all, it is a great diversity of the cases and represented entuties. We may remember victories of local media over Roskomnadzor, there were cellular operators winning their lawsuits against the General Prosecution Office’s requests. Site owners themselves won a couple of blocking cases, just like those involving Bitcoin portals” Kozlyuk added.

Bureaucracy, however, is a two-way road. As it turns out, it may work both to the benefit of and against officials.

Preliminary Session and Crowdfunding

On April 24, 2015, the preliminary session of higher jurisdiction court took place to consider the case of Bitcoin sites’ blocking. Back then, the Prosecutor’s office representative demanded to cease proceedings on the appeal as the office never requested the sites to be blocked, so it’s clean and neat. However, the court dismissed the Prosecution office’s claim, and the court scheduled the further investigation on May 15th. This was the moment when the owners and the whole community felt they could win the case.



However, nobody expected everything to happen in just a single session as it usually takes months (at best) and years (usually). Keeping in mind that Russia’s State Duma is going to consider the draft law banning cryptocurrency in August, the lingering proceedings would keep losing sense as the days pass by in Kafkian manner.

Lawsuit is a pretty money-sucking pleasure. That’s why on April 27, after the preliminary session, Ivan Tikhonov launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for legal counselling and collateral expenses.

“We managed to collect 2.25 BTC, which is a pretty big number in terms of donations, especially considering it all was at short notice. The community’s help was significant. I know some of the donators personally, while some donations were anonymous. When the campaign was launched I didn’t know how many sessions it would take and what expenses they would incur. I was preparing for the worst” Tikhonov said.

The Battle Rages On

As everyone knows now, the process ended up on a high note with the owners winning the case. The board of judges decided to discharge the Nevyansk court’s order thus claiming the January blocking of Bitcoin sites illicit.

Anyway, this small but important victory is not the end. Russia’s Bitcoin community is going to struggle againts cryptocurrency ban expected in August. Unfortunately, due to current political climate in Russia there is a fat chance that the law will pass.

“Of course it’s very probable that the law will pass, but I still hope our legislators won’t choose the easiest way and will do what is best for our country” says Ivan Tikhonov.

Facing the situation, the community needs consolidate and join their efforts to somehow explain importance of Bitcoin and its technology to the authorities.

“You can’t equate the courtroom victory and cryptocurrency legitimization. Currently one may notice a trend of considering Bitcoin and its counterparts a money surrogate which involves their further banning. However, until this concept has become a law, the fight is not over. And banning cryptocurrency doesn’t imply automtic ban of related information and news” notes Artem Kozlyuk.

Mass media are quite important for this struggle. Due to general activity of dedicated cryptocurrency sites this issue hits the headlines of major media players like RBC or Meduza.io.

It’s too early to lose heart and blame everything on illiterate officials, rabelaisian system and lack of common knowledge. Bitcoin enthusiasts are the ones who can overcome all those issues and finally compel them to accept Bitcoin in Russia. They shouldn’t forget about their American peers a few years ago Bitcoin was a scarecrow for American officials and government entities while nowadays the United States lead and shape the market.