Anatoly Kaplan (also known as Tony Kaplan) is the CEO of Forklog, is the biggest cryptocurrency media in the Russian Community. The Forklog Team has gone through thick and thin to be a media that brings news, reviews, investigation, and crypto education to the Russian crypto community, regardless of harassment from different authorities in the Russian speaking regions.
Anatoly Kaplan（Forklog CEO）
Interview Date : 28th September 2020
- Anatoly Kaplan (All Interviews)
- Scope of Russian Crypto Community
- Politicians Take on Crypto
- Russian Crypto Influencers
- Where Are the Exchanges in Russia?
- From a Blog to a Crypto Media
- Telegram and Russia Fight
- The Start of A Crypto Media Platform
- Most Well-Received Articles
- Forklog to CoinDesk Cointelegraph
- The structure of Forklog
- Russia’s Version of Facebook and Twitter
Anatoly Kaplan (All Interviews)
My name is Anatoly Kaplan, and I am the CEO of Forklog that is a crypto media company that covers the crypto market for the Russian speaking crypto community in countries where people speak the Russian language. We have been operating since 2014, it has already been 6 years since we started. In the beginning, we also had another department at a separate company that focused mostly on consulting and marketing, but after a while, we closed it. We are mostly focusing on content production including video content, special projects, etc.
Scope of Russian Crypto Community
The first thing you need to understand about the Russian crypto community is that it is not only Russia. When we refer to the Russian crypto community, we are talking about Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, which are the main countries, as well as other Russian speaking regions like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries have a lot of historical connections. Sometimes, a reference to “Similarity” may harm or trigger some people due to political reasons. So, the Russian crypto community includes the countries that in any way are affected or involved with Russian culture.
The most active crypto communities are in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kyiv. It is also very active but very different from Moscow’s community. Belarus is also described as a very active region, especially now due to the political and economic turbulence that is going on in the country. Its economy got disrupted after the protest began. So, people are looking for opportunities just to save money because banks don’t give them cash or credit. The banks don’t have cash, so you can’t buy US dollars in Belarus right now as we talk. You have to wait until someone sells their US dollars for you to be able to buy. This extreme situation is only in Belarus as of now, and that has happened due to protests and incoherence between the government and the opposition.
Politicians Take on Crypto
Today’s politicians mostly ignore crypto. They look at it as a mere tool for games, high-risk apps, or businesses. Several sectors are responsible for creating law and regulation, but still, the status of Cryptocurrency is very ambiguous. They are on the assumption that it is a risky tool and that cryptocurrencies have to be controlled somehow. Most of the regulations concerning cryptocurrencies and digital assets began in 2015. That is when they created the Digital Financial Asset Act (DFA). Thus, when I read the article “Russia is finally legalizing Crypto”, it was not something new to me. Most of those articles have such titles only to get more clicks. Such articles have been on the internet since 2015. What happened recently, in summer 2020, was that the DFA was revised. However, most of the parts of the previous DFA remained the same, and not much has changed. I would not be surprised if the regulators would postpone the actual implementation of the act. First, the government wanted to ban it, then they legalized it, and now they are trying to ban miners from receiving BTC, so it is in a messy state. I believe it is easier for them to have crypto in a grey zone. They have much going on in their cabinets, so they don’t want to deal with it at the moment, as it is not a priority for them.
I think there is more freedom in the Russian crypto community when it comes to the degree of how much it is regulated. I have lived in Switzerland, Estonia, and Germany, so I know Europe well. In Switzerland, the situation is good for Bitcoiners, and you even have Bitcoin ATMs, where you can withdraw swiss franc without any KYC, and that’s all cool and good. However, I think it is too regulated, and it is affecting the decentralization part of crypto. You have to pay taxes, and there is a lot of attention from the authorities. In Russia, because the DFA act is not regulating the community as heavily as it does in Switzerland, for example, I think it’s giving us more space. People are trying out different ideas. However, that becomes more difficult if what you are doing is related to corruption. As long as you are not involved in that, then you are just fine.
Russian Crypto Influencers
Tone Vays is a famous trader, but traders can have a good and bad reputation. People either like them or not. There are several prominent influencers in the Russian community like Mike Chobanian who is the CEO of Kuna Exchange, and Sasha Ivanov who founded Waves in 2016, which is a global blockchain platform. I think Sasha Ivanov is one of the most successful people in the space from Russia. From a more global perspective, CZ from Binance is very popular among Russian Bitcoiners as well.
Where Are the Exchanges in Russia?
Most of the exchanges are handled through P2P deals within the country. As of now, there still is no legal framework to operate a cryptocurrency exchange in Russia. You can try to set up an exchange in Russia, but you won’t find any Banks that will support you. Despite this, if you still would create an exchange, you don’t know what is legal and not, so it’s just impossible to operate. There might be exchanges on the dark web that are operating illegally, however, most real Bitcoiners are critical thinkers and have some experience. They know that it is best to be in a real market and to ensure security from actual foreign exchanges. Most of the traders are active on foreign exchanges. Some Russian exchanges operate mainly for the Russian community, but they are located in other countries like the UK which has a legal framework to operate an exchange. At such places, most of the employees are Russians as well. Such places are gradually increasing.
I had several discussions with the people who were involved in implementing the DFA act. The new version of the DFA is not going to work, because it is incompetent. In the newly revised act, they want to restrict miners from accepting cryptocurrencies as a reward for their work. So, you can operate as a miner, but your reward cannot be in cryptocurrency. As you understand, the ones who are supposed to create this framework know very little about the industry, and they lack technical expertise. The government is, like in many other countries, a bit conservative. They don’t know how it works, how it is traded, or how to invite technical and market experts to create those laws and structures.
From a Blog to a Crypto Media
Forklog is legally a European company and we don’t have any problems accepting crypto legally. It was tough to set up all this and create the structure in the beginning, but we were able to do it. Nevertheless, we are always watching out for the Russian regulator. Since we do video content and post videos with crypto material on the internet, we have to be extra careful with new internet regulations that might arise.
Telegram and Russia Fight
There was a dispute between Telegram and the Russian regulators which started in 2018. Due to that, the Russian government blocked Telegram. In response, telegram started to look for technical solutions for its users. Telegram users saw the efforts Telegram was making for the users, so they started supporting telegram. A proxy was run for free for Telegram against what the government wanted to achieve. As a result, Telegram was blocked for several hours by the government. They blocked everything that was linked to telegram including Amazon and other big platforms. What the governors didn’t know was that, by blocking such huge internet services, it would affect the government network as well. They did not have any idea that this infrastructure was also related to government services. This all happened only because they wanted to block Telegram. Ultimately, all the government attempts were not fruitful, and they had to step back, reviving everything back to normal. As there is always something going on with regulators and the government structures, Russian people feel comfortable about crypto and are a little carefree about it.
The Start of A Crypto Media Platform
It all started in 2014 when I was living in Ukraine, at the time the revolution happened. I had been living in Ukraine for 2 years, the revolution had ended and the war was about to break out. During that time, I lost my job at an IT company because of the economic crisis due to the situation. The currency in Ukraine fell from 8 hryvnias to 1 dollar to 27 hryvnias to 1 dollar. The situation got even worse when 1 dollar was the equivalent to 50 hryvnias at one point, but it was soon after restored to 27 hryvnias through a bailout from the government.
It was really hard to see your hard-earned savings losing so much value. I was 23 years old when I experienced such inflation. For a young guy who just started working, it was devastating. From that point on, I started to ask myself “I am a Russian who is living in Ukraine, how shall I go on from here on?” I started to read more about the economy, and also about money and currencies. I had heard about Bitcoin back in 2013 but that was before the revolution, and I had not paid attention to cryptocurrencies, because it sounded like a crazy mess to me. However, after the economic shock I experienced, I got very curious and started researching it. Then I learned about it the more I got interested, so I decided to run a small blog about cryptocurrency in Russian, not only for sharing information but also to collect and get more knowledgeable about it for myself. So, Forklog started as a notebook blog. However, after only a year, it started to get more and more popular, and today, it has turned into one of the biggest media platforms in the crypto world.
Most Well-Received Articles
People love good news, and the good news is news about Bitcoin, so that’s one category that is liked and clicked on the most. The second category is the investigation section. That is a very specific side of our job when our company started, and thanks to the ICO time in 2017, we still need to do this job. Investigation articles sound like a storyline from a movie, and people love that. The next part of our homepage is education. We have 2 main standards for education. One is the section where we have published short articles with a strict structure trying to explain simply. From our experience, we have seen that short and simple articles are much more well-received and understood by new Bitcoiners than the longer and more academic educational articles. We also have a YouTube channel where we explain more difficult topics, like programming languages, securities, technical differences, and also money as well as Austrian economics. It’s no secret that there is a big part of the global Bitcoin community that is related to Austrian economics, as it is a huge part of the crypto community.
Forklog to CoinDesk Cointelegraph
The format of our homepage is similar to that of CoinDesk and Cointelegraph, but it’s mainly created and suited for the Russian community. We are trying to improve our website all the time. Currently, we are in the middle of preparing a new application for mobile phones so that our readers will have a better and easier access place to go to. I am very inspired by Asian super apps and would like to have certain aspects of those apps in ours.
The structure of Forklog
Forklog’s composition is quite simple. We have different departments that work in different sections of Forklog. We are trying out new products and new approaches and always are in the outlook for innovation. We are also experimenting with AI content as well. The media and journalism run on creative writing. No one wants to be a robot or work with robots. Everyone wants to work with creative humans, and that’s what we try to bring forth.
We started complete remote work in 2018. We had an office for 2 years before that, but now we are all working and operating remotely. We have members of our team in different countries, where some are in Ukraine, others in different places in Europe, and Belarus as well. Now, we have around 30 people on our crew.
Russia’s Version of Facebook and Twitter
Telegram is the most adopted app and messenger that is used in Russia. Twitter is used for more external communications, and for people who want to participate in the global community. Facebook is used like LinkedIn, and LinkedIn is not popular in Russia. Thus, Telegram is the main place that has many crypto channels that we use. We have our social network site that is major in Russian speaking regions, and it is called VK.com. It was launched by the same guy who launched Telegram, Pavel Durov. VK is similar to Facebook, but I think VK’s UX/UI is much better and it works much better.
Last December, there was news about VK becoming government property from the 1st of January 2020, so the social platform has become an official national social network. It has been announced publicly that it will be a government website, but everybody knows that it is in the right hands of people who created it from the start. You just use it for general purposes and do what you need to do there. You can also go to another major social network platform called Odnoklassniki.ru. If you want more privacy and a more stable service, you can go to other service providers. If you compare the Russian Internet infrastructure to the Spanish or German internet infrastructure, the Russian Internet, also referred to as Runet, is much more stable. Germany’s internet infrastructure is from decades ago and I was shocked to know that. Since the early 2000s, Runet has been available to businesses and home users in various forms, including dial-up, cable, DSL, FTTH, mobile, wireless, and satellite. Russia became the second most commonly used language on the internet as early as 2013. I hope that there soon will be super apps like the Asian Line or WeChat apps.
Interviewer , Editor : Lina Kamada
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