Ukraine Building an NFT Museum, Seeking a Permanent Crypto Vault for Its War Story


“History is written by the victors.”

The quote is often attributed to Churchill, but the sentiment is much older.

It’s something that Alex Bornyakov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation, wants to make sure doesn’t happen to the history of Russia’s invasion of his country. And he thinks crypto, specifically non-fungible tokens (NFTs) written onto an immutable — unchangeable — and globally distributed blockchain, are one way to ensure that.

Bornyakov told The Guardian that he wants the country’s forthcoming NFT collection to be “like a museum of the Russian-Ukrainian war,” per the news outlet’s March 13 report. “We want to tell the world in NFT format,” he said.

A Lifeline

Crypto has been a lifeline to Ukraine, with more than $100 million donated in a number of cryptocurrencies.

But NFTs have played the most prominent role. Most notably, UkraineDAO raised $6 million with an NFT of the country’s blue-and-yellow flag that was bought by a group that fractionalized ownership of it via cryptocurrency tokens. An NFT sale by aid organization RELI3F raised more than $1 million on the top NFT marketplace OpenSea. Vogue Singapore and Vogue Ukraine are collaborating on an NFT fund-raising sale.

And on March 16, Ukraine passed legislation legalizing and regulating crypto under the National Securities and Stock Market Commission, which will issue cryptocurrency exchange licenses among other things.

“From now on foreign and Ukrainian cryptocurrencies exchanges will operate legally, and banks will open accounts for crypto companies,” the country’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said in a Twitter announcement. “It is an important step towards the development of the [virtual asset] market in Ukraine.”

It should also be useful in making crypto more available, and possibly usable as a currency. Ukraine is No. 4 on blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis’ 2021 Crypto Adoption Index, so the country has more than its share of users familiar with virtual assets.

War and Remembrance

Ukraine’s use of NFTs as a documentary tool as well as fundraising medium could be groundbreaking.

While the unique cryptocurrencies, which can hold images, video, even legal documents like real estate titles, have been used to raise money before, none have used NFTs as broadly or on the scale of the Ukrainian efforts. Or by a government desperate to make sure its voice remains heard.

Read more: PYMNTS NFT Series: From Famous Artists to Forgers, the Art World Embraces NFTs

While Bornyakov said his ministry wants the NFTs “to be cool, good-looking, and it takes time,” it also wants them to be credible over the long term.

Each one, the deputy minister revealed, will carry images that The Guardian described as “art representing a story from a trusted news source.” But it’s a use that goes to the core of the libertarian ideals that went into the creation of blockchain technology as a tool of resistance.

See also: PYMNTS Crypto Basics Series: What’s a Blockchain and How Does It Work?

After all, bitcoin was created to be a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system [that] would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”

For one thing a limited form of anonymity — pseudonymity, protecting the identity of the user but not the transaction — was baked in.

Learn more: PYMNTS Crypto Crime Series: When Privacy Counts, Crypto Users Turn to Mixing Services

Are NFTs Forever?

But it is the medium’s use as not only for creating and selling art but as an archive that is most interesting — and most fraught. Aside from the obvious need to beware of scams, there’s a need to be sure that the art itself is hosted on the NFT.

Read also: What do You Get When You Buy an NFT? Less Than You Think

That is often not the case, Sean Sullivan, an attorney active on the crypto field, pointed out in a blog post last year. Frequently, he warned, the NFT merely holds a link to art hosted on a server, comparing it a library’s card catalog rather than its collection of books

“In reality, blockchains are great as ledgers for tracking transactions but terrible as a storage or distribution system for digital assets of any size,” Sullivan explained. “The files for media assets, in particular, are just too large.”

So, if Ukraine wants to put its history on NFTs, it had better make sure the art is properly loaded onto the token and through it the blockchain. Otherwise that museum could be burned — to use the industry phrase for making a token unusable —by a state-sponsored hacker.