Vitalik Buterin, ethereum’s inventor, seems to have done something to Putin during their brief meeting in June when the currency reached an all-time high.
Apparently, the country has now gone bonkers with the idea, while Putin is “ill” with all this blockchain stuff if Moscow Times is to be believed.
And they report it all changed at this year’s St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), where Buterin briefly met Putin. Moscow Times reports:
“Blockchain is now the number one task,” First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, probably the third most powerful man in Russia, said at the session. “The president is completely ill with this idea and understands that… significant growth rates are based on the digital economy and technological leadership.”
Putin himself seems to have caught the bug. Apparently he could not even fall asleep one night thinking about blockchains, with Shuvalov stating “the president kept advisors up until well after midnight one evening discussing the issue.”
There would have been plenty to discuss, from finance to industry to strategy to perhaps even whether any of this actually works and can actually be implemented.
But blockchain based projects coming out of Russia were not in short supply after the meeting. Russia’s biggest airline, for example, started using ethereum in live production.
However, those old bankers can apparently be found in Russia too. The central bank there is seemingly “very nervous about backing a fiat currency that they have no control over and is underpinned by nothing.”
Unlike the fiat money they endlessly print which is underpinned by worthless paper. But it seems Putin is having none of it, “the orders have come down from above and the pieces are being put into place,” Moscow Times reports.
It didn’t take too long. Vitalik Buterin signed a partnership agreement with Russia’s state development bank. Buterin later clarified he is to form a new entity, called Ethereum Russia, which is to collaborate with the state bank.
“Cooperation between Ethereum and VEB gives a unique opportunity to engage in research and development on the use of blockchain technology for public administration and accelerate the adaptation of this technology to government organizations in the Russian Federation,” Buterin said at the time.
But not all welcomed the development, with some expressing concern over direct involvement at such high level. However, Buterin espoused early on a philosophy of “political neutrality.”
Something which was echoed by EU when they revealed a strategy of “technological neutrality” in September this year.
But while the EU is moving somewhat slow at a high level, the President himself appears to be involved in Russia, which may move matters faster.
However, they have plenty of competition. UK led this space as early as 2014, although now they are mired in Brexit. US private enterprise is making some considerable gains even while regulators there try and impose old red-tapes. While Estonia is pioneering some very ambitious plans.
It seems Dubai, out of all places, is leading in that wider region. So announcing plans to issue a blockchain based digital currency usable by ordinary citizens with state backing.
Yet, this space is still very new and even the low hanging fruits have not yet been picked up, so plenty of time to catch up or fall down left in the blockchain race.