Kerch Strait Incident: Storing history on a blockchain

Released by Russian security agency FSB, this photograph seems to depict a clash between Ukrainian and Russian ships on the 25th of November

This is a guest blog post from the Decentralised Public Library, an Arweave initiative.

On January 9th 2009 Satoshi Nakamoto minted the first block of the Bitcoin network, deliberately adding a headline from The Times newspaper to the genesis block, ‘Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks’. The idea of storing history on a blockchain has been around since literally as long as blockchain technology itself has existed. However, data size limits have previously prohibited the storage of large quantities of historical data on the blockchain itself.

Last Sunday, on the 25th of November 2018, news broke of a flotilla of Ukranian navy vessels that were denied passage through the Kerch Strait to the Sea of Azov by Russian military forces. Shortly after this became known, primary sources relating to this event and its effects were stored permanently on Arweave’s permaweb, irrevocably recording the events as they unfolded. The Sea of Azov-Black Sea geographical region is a contentious one, especially following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, after the toppling of pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych earlier in the year.

Recent activities in the Kerch Strait are potentially monumentally important to future historians, being the latest in a series of events that have escalated tensions severely in the region. As such, on Sunday when Russian military ships physically prevented three Ukrainian vessels from passing through the Strait, Arweave community members immediately raced to archive the first official public statements from both sides about the incident.

Thankfully, due to the unique technology of the Arweave, the initial statements from both Ukrainian and Russian official sources were immediately and truly permanently archived just moments after they were first published, long before most media sources altered the public to the incident. These archived pages now lie beyond the reach of either nation, beyond censorship. The pages cannot be edited, re-written, or deleted, and so they will be able to serve as a truly permanent, cryptographically verifiable record of the contemporary official statements regarding the Sea of Azov incident for many, many years into the future.

The first piece of primary source material archived on the permaweb is a piece by Sputnik International, which is owned and operated by Russian government-controlled media agency Rossiya Segodnya. Here it is, served directly from the permaweb: In this piece, Sputnik claims that the Kerch Strait ‘Russian territorial waters’ were only ‘temporarily off-limit’, and states, ‘The Russian Foreign Ministry warned Ukraine against attempts to revise the status of the Sea of Azov in violation of international law, and urged Kiev to refrain from attempting to unilaterally establish new state borders.

Next, primary source material from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was second to be archived on the permaweb, and offers a radically different perspective on the incident. Here is the permaweb link for the Ukrainian statement: In this formal response, the Ministry stated that Russia has ‘transgressed all boundaries and become aggressive’, stating that Russia ‘unlawfully used force against the ships of Ukrainian Naval Forces’.

Since the time that these webpages were perma-archived, controversial events have continued to unfold. Some sources report that the Ukrainian vessels were fired upon. Additionally, it appears that several Ukranians involved were wounded, along with 23–24 Ukrainians aboard the ships being taken captive by Russian forces. Twelve of these individuals have now been brought to court on charges of illegally crossing the Russian border, according to ABC News (here is the permaweb link to this article). Just today, international news media reported that Ukraine has closed its borders to Russian men aged 16–60, and President Trump has now cancelled a planned meeting with his Russian counterpart, President Putin.

This demonstrates the importance of capturing these primary source webpages as quickly as possible when these potentially historically significant events occur. These pages will now serve as a steadfast, truly permanent record for future historians to refer to when reflecting on the Kerch Strait crisis, and whatever potentially momentous events may follow that we are as yet unaware of. We like to lead by example, so all links in this article are served directly from the permaweb, archived forever, immutably!

If you’d like to help us permanently archive human history on a blockchain, grab the Arweave web extension and join us on Discord where we can send you some tokens to get started!

A novel data storage blockchain protocol enabling a permanent serverless web and creating truly permanent data storage for the first time.

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