Micronation of Cryptophiles: The Intriguing Tale of Liberland
After we disembarked from Liberty, a houseboat stationed just off the boundaries of the European Union, we were met by a pair of Serbian police officers. Their squad car lights creating an eerie ook in the middle of the dark forest. They queried about the number of people on board, but having lost count, we could not accurately tell. Nevertheless, they let us go, and we had to quickly navigate, guided by our phone lights, through the muddy trail to Croatia and pray that the presidential convoy had not left without us.
Close Encounters with an Unclaimed Land
At this point, we were just meters away from the border of Liberland. This unrecognized region occupied by crypto enthusiasts lies between Croatia and Serbia on the Danube river. Slightly larger than 2.7 square miles, it is about the size of Gibraltar. Vít Jedlička, referring to himself as the “president” of Liberland, asserts that neither Croatia nor Serbia had claimed the land, making it a no man’s land when he erected a flag there on the 13th of April, 2015.
Although there is no permanent infrastructure or habitable environment, the idea of Liberland has caught the fascination of Libertarian-minded individuals. Their de facto sanctuary is the Ark Liberty Village, a campground on the Serbian side.
Navigating the Difficult Terrain
Getting into the independent state of Liberland can be somewhat thorny, according to Jedlička. He explained that the Croatian border police are aware of our group’s presence and would probably inhibit any suspicious vehicles from entering. Therefore, attempting a direct route inside via Croatia isn’t advisable. Certain identifying items like flags, stickers, or even Liberland-branded beer are contraband at the crossing.
However, entering the Schengen area via Hungary appears to be a safer bet as the Hungarians are seemingly indifferent to Liberland. From Hungary, one may drive into the Croatian countryside and reach Liberland’s land border without arousing suspicion.
Liberland and the Concept of Terra Nullius
In international law, a region can be considered terra nullius (nobody’s land) and can be occupied freely if it has a defined territory, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to form relations with other states, but hasn’t been claimed by any country. To this standard, Liberland seems to meet all requirements save for the aspect of a permanent population, a factor Jedlička believes is only a matter of time.
Web3, Bitcoin, and Blockchain in Liberland
Jedlička reflects on his early foray into Bitcoin, buying it at $32 on Mt. Gox. By the time he announced Liberland’s independence in 2015, Bitcoin was worth $225. The micronation’s treasury grew in value as early contributors donated in Bitcoin. In Jedlička’s words, “Bitcoin is really one of the most foundational parts of Liberland — 99% of our reserves are in BTC”.
Attracting blockchain companies is central to Liberland’s strategy. The vision is to create a low-regulatory jurisdiction with voluntary taxes situated just off Europe, with direct access via the Danube river. To become a Liberlander, one would have to pay $150 for an e-residency, which comes with an ID card. The process of gaining citizenship requires 5,000 Liberland Merits (LLM).
A Journey into Liberland
It began to rain as we approached the Hungarian border…
However, even though we were newcomers, we felt the intensity of the journey and the genuine passion of the participants. It made us question the future of Liberland- A vision of a floating man’s utopia, or a Bitcoiner’s somewhat playful version of sovereignty?
Regardless, the tale of Liberland continues…
About the Author:
Elias Ahonen is a Finnish-Canadian author based in Dubai. An early Bitcoin adopter, Elias has since worked globally, operating a small blockchain consultancy. His book, Blockland, narrates the evolution of the industry. With a Master’s degree in international and comparative law, Elias wrote his thesis on NFT and metaverse regulation.