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Coming In from the Cold: The Old Soviet Union’s Crypto Mining Adventure

Coming In from the Cold_ The Old Soviet Union's Crypto Mining Adventure

Since the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics commonly known as the Soviet Union on 26th December 1991, the map of Central Europe has been turned on its head.

With an area of 22,402,200 square kilometres (8,649,500 sq mi), the Soviet Union was the world’s largest country, a status that is still retained by the Russian Federation, covering a sixth of Earth’s land surface.

In 1991, countries that had been under Moscow’s one-party state rule between 1922 and 1991 were freed from centralized control and finally left to re-establish their own national identities. For Moscow this was often at odds with their own, causing volatile relationships with Georgia and Ukraine with disputed Crimea a continual flashpoint.

Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Latvia, and Estonia all broke loose as the USSR crumbled in 1991 with Soviet communism in tatters.

The lengthy restructuring of many of these countries’ economies resulted in some re-joining another league of nations, this time the 28-member European Union.  Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania took this route whilst others from the old USSR still chose, some reluctantly, to maintain their ties to Russia as part of their own unique plans of economic reconstruction.

Since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009, many economies have begun to look to cryptocurrencies as part of a restructuring of outmoded financial systems, with both governments and central banks exploring the adoption of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies for retail and large-value payments.

Russia

The Russian government has even considered the prospect of a crypto rouble as a foil to US sanctions. President Putin stated earlier this year that Russia cannot be “late in the race” for blockchain adoption, which he says includes crypto mining arguing, “Russia cannot allow this.” The country’s cold climate has been a pull, as companies draw on this as an important feature for cutting down energy costs associated with the cooling needs of mining infrastructure.

Crypto mining in Russia has become a huge industry on an individual level, but more importantly for the government at an industrial scale also. This is now driving operators towards locally run Russian mining pools. The Russian Association of Crypto Industry and Blockchain (RACIB) claims that there are now over 400,000 people employed in the sector. 70,000 enterprises operate hundreds of thousands of mining rigs, with an increase in one-man operators working from their homes.

The fall in the value of cryptocurrencies has consequently had a recent effect on hardware pricing though, with rigs that might have sold for USD 3,500 in January 2018 now achieving prices some 37.5% less a year later as demand falls. Although small-scale mining by amateur miners is clearly being hit hard, companies are developing more financially viable ways of operating.

Siberia

Still in Russia, and renown for the Gulag where Stalin imprisoned political dissenters in appalling conditions between 1930 and 1945, the region’s freezing conditions in winter has become the crypto miner’s best friend. Siberia is fast becoming Russia’s mining hub with most activity centered around Irkutsk, 2600 miles east of Moscow with an average temperature of just one degree above freezing. In Irkutsk the cost of labour is low and real estate is cheap, giving miners an extra incentive for making the move to Russia’s wild frontier. The most significant boon to miners is the cost of electricity. On average in Russia, one pays nine cents per kWh versus 12.7 in the U.S.A and 25 in the U.K.

Bitcoin Babushkas: Cryptocurrency mining in Siberia

Latvia

Latvia has the crypto bug, but not necessarily the support it would want from its government, with the Latvian central bank maintaining a keep-away stance as its advice to customers. The Cryptocurrencies’ exponential growth in the Baltic country has generated increased interest from the government as potential tax revenue.

Ukraine

In the Ukraine capital, Kiev, such is the hype surrounding Bitcoin that a statue of the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin was ordered for construction in the same location where a statue of Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, used to stand. In March, the Minister of Economic Development said the government was planning to include cryptocurrency mining into the official state register of economic activities.

Last year police department employees were caught mining cryptocurrencies using the department’s resources for over four months before they were discovered and their mining farm seized. This kind of enthusiasm illustrates the way many Ukrainians view crypto mining; as a quick fix to hardship.

Crypto mining has become a significant factor of cryptocurrency activity in Ukraine with a recorded USD 80 million invested in this area. However, Ukraine still hasn’t endorsed legislation to legalize cryptocurrencies despite increased activity in the country’s crypto space; legislation talks which are reported to be looking at blockchain and the storage and trading of cryptocurrencies are long awaited by exchanges and miners.

Estonia

Estonia even toyed briefly with launching its own cryptocurrency, the Estcoin, through the country’s e-residency program, but later shelved the idea. One reason for Estonia’s raised profile in the region is due to the country’s proximity to Russia, where the future of cryptocurrencies continues to be uncertain, despite Vladimir Putin’s recent comments on adopting a state crypto-rouble, according to Entrepreneur Europe. This makes neighboring states an attractive proposition for Russian investment.

Lithuania

Lithuania has recently become a growing center for ICOs and crypto projects. Latest figures show that Lithuania is now attracting an impressive 10% of all global ICO investments, with cryptocurrency bringing in half a billion euros from such activities.

Georgia

The greatest cryptocurrency success story of all has to be ex-soviet state Georgia which has now reached the lofty accolade of becoming the number two crypto mining location in the world. Wedged between two giant economies on the top ten mining charts, China and the US, Georgia has utilized cheap hydroelectricity and friendly regulations to create its current standing.  However, US company, BitFury controls most of the mining activity supported by the Georgian government through preferential tariffs and a waiver on the payment of value-added tax.

The poor economic conditions of the country, with many Georgians living below the national average of USD 400 a month, it is unsurprising that cryptocurrency mining has been identified by the fast money associated with digital currencies. Georgia is among several jurisdictions in the post-Soviet space that have been attracting crypto miners with friendly regulations and low operating costs. In terms of mining profitability, the country ranks second only to China.

Such is the demand for mining Bitcoin in the old Soviet region that the consumption of electricity has become a worry for some government regulators. In Abkhazia, recognized as an independent state by Russia, but part of Georgia by UN decree, the situation has become strained due to cryptocurrency mining. As a result, the Republic of Abkhazia has now cut power to some of the cryptocurrency mining farms in the region in order to conserve energy and as part of a series of “temporary measures to limit the consumption of electricity by certain categories of subscribers.”

Given that Bitcoin continues to hold its own on cryptocurrency markets, the future of many ex-Soviet nations is best approached from out in the cold.

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Cryptocurrency Legislation Completed in Belarus

Cryptocurrency Legislation Completed in Belarus

A document published today by Belarus High-Technologies Park (HTP), reveals that the country has come up with governing rules for operating the cryptocurrency market.

The document was termed as “the second stage of cryptocurrency regulation”, which contained details of the approved regulations for activities with digital tokens. It specified requirements for different businesses looking to venture into the world of cryptocurrencies or initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the country.

Prior to this recent development, another policy was signed last year containing general operational guidelines for the industry. This was filed under the Decree No. 8 ‘On the Development of the Digital Economy’. In this decree, cryptocurrency exchanges, cryptocurrency exchange operators, mining, smart contracts, blockchains, and tokens were legalized.

In this second phase of the regulation drafting, six reference documents have been drafted up to include the HTP Supervisory Board Decision, requirements for applicants, crypto platform operators, cryptocurrency exchanges, ICO organizers and requirements for internal control rules.

These documents all together now constitute a comprehensive support for cryptocurrency activities in Belarus. It should be noted that “the HTP administration, together with the National Bank, the Financial Monitoring Department of the State Control Committee, international experts and other bodies, compiled and signed all the necessary documents”, as reported by Belarusian news outlet Dev.by.

HTP is an area dedicated to providing special opportunities dedicated to the growth of the IT industry in the country. Popularly termed as the Belarusian Silicon Valley, some of the achievements of the Belarus HTP include exports of 80% of the total production from companies within the area to the North American and the European technology markets. Tech companies thrive in the area due to tax exemption policies favoring them. More so, companies around Belarus don’t need to physically build there before they can operate in the area.

So far, Belarus has shown support for the blockchain and seems to be throwing its weight heavily behind it, as it attracts new businesses because of its cryptocurrency friendliness while extending a hand of invitation to other countries for crypto-related services.

 

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Belarus Turns up the Heat on Crypto as Business on Fire in Minsk

Belarus is alive and well in the world of cryptocurrency as high tech and crypto companies choose the former Soviet Republic as the new place to do business in the region.

The Belarus Hi-Tech park in Minsk is fast becoming a fintech center with 388 companies now registered as conducting business there. Much of the new interest in fintech in the country has been put down to Belarus President Lukashenko’s Decree №8 signed in December of 2017 called “On the Development of the Digital Economy” which has attracted new business to Belarus firmly set as its main aim.

Now that Belarus has legalized cryptocurrency trading for residents, many related businesses have been attracted to the park despite the majority of companies working in the IT and software sectors. Blockchain company Aetsoft, which provided services to ICOs and exchanges since 2014, is one of such businesses dealing with clients in the US, Germany, and Denmark. Another company, Biggico, whose international team has built an advertising platform for crypto projects, was established by Belarusian and Latvian entrepreneurs.

Other companies now operating out of Belarus, currently developing cloud-based crypto mining facilities include Pm Pool and Smartpool. Another company, Aiscom offers cryptocurrency payment solutions to exchanges, wallet providers and ICO projects.

The country has no intention of being left behind in the region. As reported by local news outlet Korea JoongAng Daily, the deputy foreign minister and ambassador of Belarus Andrei Dapkiunas told reporters that the European nation is open to investment into Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies; this includes blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Belarus recently expressed interest in strengthening economic and business ties during a recent working visit to Seoul, particularity in the fields of fintech and blockchain technology. Diplomats from Belarus are keen to extend the cooperation between the two counties to promote new projects in the country.

Although the Hi-Tech park currently lacks cryptocurrency exchanges, what has been called “the first Belarusian cryptocurrency exchange” launched by crypto platform Crexby, is ironically based in New York City rather than its natural home of Minsk. The platform was started by Belarusian immigrants living in the US.

The main reason behind a lack of exchanges operating out of Belarus has been put down to the government’s lukewarm attitude toward digital currency, combined with local financial institutions’ reluctance to support cryptocurrency transactions and work with exchanges. More government clarity regarding cryptocurrency has been called for by both cryptocurrency exchanges and companies selling related products.

 

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Chechnya Eurasian Crypto Mining Pool to Boost EAEU Nations

Eurasian Economic Union Countries (EAEU) are to receive some support in their crypto mining activities suggests Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechnya Republic.

According to the head of state’s press secretary Alvi Karimov, Chechnya has come up with a plan to create a mining pool to support mining in the Eurasian region by pooling resources of regional crypto miners.

Situated in the eastern part of the North Caucasus, partially in Eastern Europe, Chechnya is surrounded on nearly all sides by Russian Federal territory. In the west, it borders North Ossetia and Ingushetia, in the north, Stavropol Krai, in the east, Dagestan, and to the south, Georgia. Its capital is Grozny.

Chechnya is a federal subject of the Republic of Russia, which has once entertained the thought of a crypto-ruble in the past, despite attacking public cryptocurrency adoption. Although Chechen authorities have not outwardly supported cryptocurrency adoption themselves, the government has begun to demonstrate an interest in implementing blockchain and electronic payments systems. In a surprise move earlier this year, President Kadyrov publicly became a private cryptocurrency investor himself after slamming the concept, maintaining:

“Someone who puts money into cryptocurrencies expects their value to increase many fold… Their price grows only at the expense of investors’ greed. Those people are trying to draw in new investors and then get rich thanks to their greed.”

Ten days later the unpredictable Kadyrov bought his first Bitcoin. He said, “I’ve made up my mind to buy a share of bitcoin to follow the evolution of the cryptocurrency,” he further added: “I have already stated that blockchain will be introduced in the Chechen Republic and I am also interested in innovative payment networks.”

Although, the head of state calls for further regulation to protect Chechen citizens from “financial pyramids and other fraudulent schemes,” he wants miners from Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan to unite to create the new pool.

It is likely that President Kadyrov is buoyed by neighboring Russia’s increased mining activity with 400,000 people now employed in the sector. 70,000 enterprises operate hundreds of thousands of mining rigs. Russian money going towards foreign enterprises through crypto mining is also on the increase, a fact that has driven pooling ideas.

As a result, the RACIB has linked up with Crypto Universe Company to develop two mining pools under the project name “Mine Russia”.  Each of the pools is speculated to support 3000 units, mining a range of cryptocurrencies. One of the main aims of the project is to cut back on the amount of Russian money going towards foreign enterprises through crypto mining. The Russian Association of Crypto Industry and Blockchain’s (RACIB) president has vowed that there will be no hidden fees for the transfer of assets or connecting the mining equipment to the pools.

The Chechen pool will jump-start the ‘Crypto Chechnya’ program, which is aimed at developing the region’s economy with the use of blockchain technologies. The government has confirmed that before the mining pool can be launched, the adoption of the laws regulating the operation of cryptocurrency in the territory of Russia needs to be ratified; possibly later this year as a new bill passes through the Russian State Duma.

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Uzbekistan and Belarus want South Korea’s Crypto Knowledge

South Korea’s high profile status in cryptocurrency space is leading less crypto-developed nations to seek advice from them in the hope to secure valuable insight in further developing their know-how in the industry.

Both Uzbekistan and Belarus, two central European countries still in development in the space, are turning to the East for support.

Uzbekistan has recently legalized crypto trading in the country and has announced some initial regulations for both trading and mining. The new decree, “On measures to organize the activities of crypto-exchanges in Uzbekistan”, states any company providing for the purchasing of or sale of crypto assets on a platform will be recognized as a legal exchange.

The country, which is now working to create a state-owned, national coin trading platform, also wants to attract foreign exchanges, to which end authorities in the nation’s capital Tashkent have sought the support of the Korean Blockchain Business Association (KOBEA).

As part of an ongoing negotiation, the Uzbekistan Revolution 4.0 project has been formed to further develop the country’s new crypto industry, with KOBEA cooperating with Uzbekistan’s regulatory body, the National Agency for Project Management. Further plans to build a mining center and a blockchain academy and a large research complex in Tashkent are also under consideration with KOBEA on hand for technical advice.

The country is also expecting to call on South Korean cryptocurrency experts in order to begin offering specialized educational courses at universities around the country.

Belarus has no intention of behind left behind in the region. As reported by local news outlet Korea JoongAng Daily, the deputy foreign minister and ambassador of Belarus Andrei Dapkiunas told reporters that the European nation is open to investment into Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies; this includes blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Belarus recently expressed interest in strengthening economic and business ties with during a recent working visit to Seoul, particularity in the fields of fintech and blockchain technology. Diplomats from Belarus are keen to extend the cooperation between the two counties to promote new projects in the country.

 

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Belarus Invites South Korean Investors as Korea Post Taps Goldman Sachs for Crypto Education

South Korea’s blockchain prowess is gaining international reach as reports show that the Eastern European nation of Belarus is opening its doors for South Korean investors, as its national postal service Korea Post seeks cryptocurrency know-how from Goldman Sachs executives.

Belarus

As reported by local news outlet Korea JoongAng Daily, the deputy foreign minister and ambassador of Belarus Andrei Dapkiunas told reporters that the European nation is open to investment into Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies; this includes blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Between meetings with the Joint Committee of Belarus and Korea during a visit to Seoul, the ambassador noted that Belarus had made “groundbreaking state legislation regarding the IT sector”, adding, “We are the partner in Eastern Europe making innovative strides on blockchain, cryptocurrency, start-up development and software production.”

Business relations between the two countries are healthy, with South Korean exports to Belarus including IT products, vehicles, electronics, while Belarus supplies goods such as semiconductors, lasers and optical instruments.

Highlighting the potential future success of a 4IR relationship with South Korea, Dapkiunas said, “…we feel that this potential is not fully realized. We believe that there is a significant potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in such fields as aerospace, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies, electric and self-driving vehicles, robotics and electronics, nanomaterials and digital economy.”

It wouldn’t come as a surprise should South Korean investors see the benefits of such a cooperation. This is due to the governments of South Korea and the United States having a cooperative partnership in place for the coming 4IR era.

Goldman Sachs and Korea Post

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that the South Korean postal service is actively seeking an understanding of cryptocurrencies.

The president of Korea Post, Kang Seong-ju, said that he had spoken about cryptocurrencies with David Solomon, a Goldman Sachs chief effective, at a New York meeting.

Staff members of Korea Post are said to be meeting with the Goldman Sachs crypto-research team in Hong Kong to educate themselves on blockchain, digital assets and other technologies such as AI.

Kang said, “I asked Goldman to pass on their know-how in the cryptocurrency area… Since cryptocurrencies are considered to have potential, and are something many people are watching, we’ll need to learn the strengths and weaknesses.”

According to the Bloomberg report, Korea Post presently has no intention of investing in cryptocurrencies. However, the meeting in Hong Kong should prove fruitful given its national status and the present hype of blockchain in South Korea.

 

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Moscow to Use Ethereum to Oversee Farmers’ Markets Allocations

Moscow is going ahead with plans to develop a system using the Ethereum blockchain which will simplify the allocation of commercial trading plots to farmers.

The system is designed to allocate some 1,500 trading spots which become available each year with 20,000 farmers scrambling for a foothold in the April to November agricultural season. The race for a livelihood is enormously competitive, with farmers from Russia and original federated states, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, all vying for a place to conduct weekend trade in the nation’s capital.

Along with allocation of the spots, blockchain should help with recording applications and keep details of those who have been denied access to a trading location. Blockchain product manager at Moscow City Hall, Andrey Borodyonkov sees the use of blockchain as a huge advantage, commenting, “Blockchain is an additional guarantee that the incoming applications remain immutable as well as makes the audit of the application history possible.”

Until now, farmers have had issues with the current method of allocating trading spots, receiving little to no indication from City Hall as to why unsuccessful requests to trade in the capital had been denied. Also, with the blockchain system, the risk of any allegations of fraud or tampering with requests will be eradicated. A government statement suggested:

“The entire dataset is publicly viewable, transparent and available for download. In that case, submission time can be confirmed, while the application cannot be deleted or altered by someone once it is submitted.”

Andrey Belozerov, an adviser to Moscow City Hall, is particularly happy with this outcome as he sees it as offering clarity to farmers:

“We believe that farmers should have a transparent system to see why their application is declined or approved…blockchain is to make sure that the process is fully transparent and no one can alter an application. We hope that blockchain will provide full transparency for everyone.”

Moscow City Hall, which has recently formed a new department called Product Blockchain, is clearly intent on putting the new technology into commercial use at government administrative level since hiring blockchain developers back in 2016.

 

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Bitcoin is ‘Back in the USSR’

Russia’s launch of its first crypto investment bank is the hot news from Eastern Europe’s sleeping bear, but how is the old USSR and the rest of the eastern bloc holding up in the charge to regulate the nascent industry in the region?

In the Ukraine capital, Kiev, plans are underway to site a statue of the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, in the same location where a statue of Russian communist revolutionary Lenin, used to stand. This appears to augur well for the bitcoin community… or does it?

Things are changing since ex-President Victor Yanukovich created his own cryptocurrency oligarchy; the pro- Russian leader is now exiled in Russia and wanted in his home county for high treason. Today, according to businessman Michael Chobanian, who opened the first Ukraine exchange offering national currency hryvnia for Bitcoin: “Ukraine is a haven for cryptocurrency – no one can or will stop you.”

His comments don’t exactly ring true in light of recent swoops by state security forces on Kvazar semiconductor plant in Kiev, where a large mining operation was located. This, a month after armed men from Ukraine’s Security Service broke into the Odessa offices of ForkLog, a major Russian-language crypto news site, and seized its computers and hard drives.

In an attempt to start a dialogue on cryptocurrency, Alexei Mushak, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, has sought to urge the people to comment on Bitcoin, taking to Facebook to do so recently, stating:

“We go to the home stretch to create conditions for digital tokens and cryptocurrency in Ukraine. This is the outcome of many meetings and work of many people. There are many more nuances left to figure out…”

Cryptocurrency regulation in Ukraine remains a work in progress, despite the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) stating that it was “considering” introducing a digital version of the hryvnia earlier this year.

Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus has taken what appears to be a sensible approach to a difficult problem in some of the old USSR states. Both blockchain and cryptocurrency related business activities are legislated under the law in Belarus. Mining and exchanges are not regarded as business activities and consequently are not subject to taxation. In fact, the great news for crypto investors is they are not required to declare crypto income until 2023.

Traveling through the old USSR even further north, Estonia even toyed briefly with launching its own cryptocurrency, the Estcoin, through the country’s e-residency program, but later shelved the idea.

The e-residency program, introduced in 2014, allows non-Estonians access to national services such as company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation. The program also allows anyone in the world to apply for a digital ID card and gain access to Estonian e-services when planning to start a company in the country.

Many crypto companies are now doing business in Estonia and the Baltic region is becoming a “Northern crypto-paradise” along with Lithuania and Latvia, both also experiencing an economic boom recently. Estonia’s widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies and fintech has, therefore, become a breeding ground for new startups.

Latvia has the crypto bug, but not necessarily the support it would want from its government, with the Latvian central bank maintaining a keep away stance as its advice to customers.

Latvia currently levies a 20% capital gains tax, and applying it to cryptocurrency would reportedly require a change in the country’s tax laws. Currently, cryptocurrencies are not recognized under existing legislation. However, its exponential growth in the Baltic country has generated an increased interest from the government as a potential tax revenue.

Lithuania has recently become a growing center for ICOs and crypto projects. Latest figures show that Lithuania is now attracting an impressive 10% of all global ICO investments, with cryptocurrency bringing in half a billion euros from such activities.

 

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