“History is written by the victors.”
The quote is often attributed to Churchill, but the sentiment is much older.
This is something Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation, wants to make sure doesn’t happen to the story of the Russian invasion of his country. And he thinks crypto, especially non-fungible tokens (NFTs) written on an immutable — unchangeable — and globally distributed blockchain, is one way to ensure that.
Bornyakov told the Guardian he wanted the country’s next NFT collection to be “like a museum of the Russian-Ukrainian war”, according to the outlet’s March 13 report. “We want to tell the world in NFT format,” he said.
Crypto has been a lifeline for Ukraine, with over $100 million donated in a number of cryptocurrencies.
But NFTs played the most important role. Most notably, UkraineDAO raised $6 million with an NFT of the country’s blue and yellow flag that was purchased by a group that split ownership via cryptocurrency tokens. An NFT sale by aid organization RELI3F has raised over $1 million on the premier OpenSea NFT marketplace. Vogue Singapore and Vogue Ukraine are collaborating on an NFT finance sale.
And on March 16, Ukraine passed a law legalizing and regulating crypto under the aegis of the National Securities and Exchange Commission, which will, among other things, issue cryptocurrency exchange licenses.
“From now on, foreign and Ukrainian cryptocurrency exchanges will operate legally and banks will open accounts for crypto companies,” the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said in a Twitter announcement. “This is an important step towards the development of the [virtual asset] market in Ukraine.
It should also be helpful in making crypto more available and eventually usable as currency. Ukraine is #4 on blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis’s 2021 Crypto Adoption Index, so the country has more than its share of users familiar with virtual assets.
War and memory
Ukraine’s use of NFTs as a documentary tool as well as a means of fundraising could be revolutionary.
While unique cryptocurrencies, which can contain images, videos, and even legal documents like real estate titles, have been used to raise funds before, none have used NFTs as widely or at the scale of Ukrainian efforts. Or by a government desperate to make sure its voice is heard.
Read more: PYMNTS NFT Series: From Famous Artists to Forgers, the Art World is Embracing NFTs
While Bornyakov said his ministry wants NFTs to be “cool, beautiful, and time-consuming,” he also wants them to be credible in the long run.
Each, the deputy minister revealed, will carry images which The Guardian described as “art depicting a story from a trusted news source”. But it’s a use that goes to the heart of the libertarian ideals that went into creating blockchain technology as a tool of resistance.
See also: PYMNTS Crypto Basics Series: What is a Blockchain and how does it work?
After all, bitcoin was created to be a “peer-to-peer electronic payment system. [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.
On the one hand, a limited form of anonymity – pseudonymity, protecting the identity of the user but not the transaction – has been integrated.
Learn more: PYMNTS Crypto Crime Series: When Privacy Matters, Crypto Users Turn to Mixing Services
Are NFTs forever?
But it’s the medium’s use not just to create and sell art, but also as an archive that’s most interesting – and loaded. Besides the obvious need to beware of scams, there is a need to ensure that the art itself is hosted on the NFT.
Read also: What do you get when you buy an NFT? Less than you think
This is often not the case, pointed out Sean Sullivan, a practicing crypto attorney, in a blog post last year. Often, he warned, the NFT simply holds a link to the art hosted on a server, matching it to a library’s card catalog rather than its book collection.
“In reality, blockchains are great as ledgers for tracking transactions, but terrible as a system for storing or distributing digital assets of any size,” Sullivan explained. “The media asset files, in particular, are just too big.”
So if Ukraine wants to put its story on NFTs, it is better to make sure that the art is properly loaded on the token and through it the blockchain. Otherwise, this museum could be burned down – to use the industry phrase for rendering a token unusable – by a state-sponsored hacker.