Few world leaders wear the trappings of state as lightly as Vít Jedlička. Fewer still plan to replace themselves with a system based on blockchain.

The president of the Free Republic of Liberland has no need for titles (“I’m fine with Vít, actually”), travels without security, and is happy to meet BREAKER on a Sunday morning, at a hip café in Prague’s seventh district, where he’s speaking at the HCPP cryptoanarchy conference.

Then again, Liberland is far from your average nation. Laying claim to a 2.7-square-mile section of no-man’s-land between Croatia and Serbia, the project is an attempt to create a libertarian paradise on the west bank of the Danube. The vision, much of it underpinned by crypto, foresees a 21st century version of Monaco or Macao arising in the Balkans. Taxes will be voluntary, government will be decentralized, and personal and economic freedoms (including the right to bear arms) will be guaranteed by law.

Central to the plan is a cryptocurrency known as “Merit,” running on Ethereum, that affects both a citizen’s democratic rights and their reputation.

A photo from the promo deck for Liberland.

Initially Liberland used bitcoin as its reserve currencya decision that was “very helpful for the state budget,” says Jedličkabut it now plans something far more ambitious. “It will be more of a share in Liberland than a cryptocurrency,” he says.

When the technology is mature enough, President Jedlička’s provisional government plans to turn the running of the country over to a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization), which will control the distribution of Merits to Liberland citizens based on their contributions to the country, financial and otherwise.

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Under this system, being developed with DAOstack, a Liberlander’s right to vote will be weighted based on the number of Merits they own, effectively doing away with the “one person, one vote” principle. As Jedlička puts it, “We are fixing this strange relation between state and taxpayer, where it doesn’t matter how much you pay in taxes, you always have [only] one vote.”

It’s a consolation prize neither Croatia nor Serbia wants, but for half a million would-be Liberlanders, it could be home.

A pilot project is due to launch in late November.

Merits will also serve as collateral in the Liberland justice system, which is being developed with Kleros. “If you have enough collateral to pay for the damage that you have created, you might not even go to jail because the people that you have hurt could be compensated from your collateral,” says Jedlička.

Floating Man

The big sticking point for the project is that neither Croatia nor Serbia recognizes the new nation’s right to the land. (Nor, for that matter, does any other internationally recognized nation.) Croatia, in fact, actively deters people from visiting the plot, and Jedlička himself has been arrested three times on Liberland territory.

Because of this, the physical aspects of Liberland have lagged behind the state’s virtual architecture.

Jedlička’s HCPP presentation includes some impressive concept art—the results of a design competition organized by the vogueish Zaha Hadid Architects studio—but, because of Croatian hostility, development of the area is limited to the periphery.

A Liberland boat currently moored on the Danube will soon be replaced by Bitcoin Freedom, a larger vessel capable of permanently housing up to 30 people. Jedlička envisions Bitcoin Freedom’s 650 square meters as an “alternative space” where groups connected to Liberland (“Liberland lawyers, Liberland architects, Liberland volleyball players or soccer players”) can come to visit Liberland, socialize and even get married.

The new boat will be also the main venue for a festival (working title “Floating Man”) next August. There are also plans for houseboats, potentially adding accommodation for another 50 people during the summer. Around the world, like-minded Liberlanders are creating “diaspora village” housing developments, and have opened around 100 “representative offices” worldwide.

Originally from Hradec Králové, 70 miles east of the Czech capital, Jedlička is paying a relatively rare visit to his country of birth. “I’m actually in the air all the time,” he says, dividing his time between conferences and diplomatic work.

An artistic rendering of Liberland by Zaha Hadid Architects.

One week after our interview, he will travel to Somaliland, a breakaway territory in the Horn of Africa, to attend the opening of Liberland’s first embassy. He spends most of the summer with his family “as close as possible to Liberland.”

In 2015, when Jedlička first planted a flag in Liberland, the media treated the project as an elaborate prank. Three years on, Jedlička is obviously serious about his mission to build “heaven” on the Danube, and has the numbers to prove it: 549,000 people have registered with the Liberland website, 205,000 of whom, says Jedlička, are eligible for Liberland citizenship, and 117,000 businesses would like to take advantage of the fledgling state’s generous tax regime.

Still only 35, Jedlička’s background is in marketing, software development and Czech politics. Between 2009 and 2016, he was a regional leader of the Strana svobodných občanů (Party of Free Citizens), a minor Czech political party on the libertarian Right. Gradually, his vision grew beyond domestic politics.

The big sticking point for the project is that neither Croatia nor Serbia recognizes the new nation’s right to the land.

Driven by a desire to “fix states that are too big and too regulatory,” Jedlička’s dreams of remodeling the Czech Republic in the image of Switzerland were met with skepticism. “A lot of people told me that I would have to start my own country … So, I was thinking, yeah, that’s actually a good idea. Let’s create a new nation.”

Finding the territory for Liberland was surprisingly easy: “There was a list of no-man’s lands available on Wikipedia. It wasn’t that much of a secret.”

Like many Balkan disputes, the disagreement over the Danube border between Croatia and Serbia dates is a historic one. In this case, the starting point was hydraulic projects that straightened the river in the 19th century, altering what had traditionally been the border between the Croatian Baranya region and the Serbian Bačka region.

The Danube’s shifted course was officially recognized as one of Yugoslavia’s internal borders in the aftermath of World War II and, in 1992, following the bitter Croatian War of Independence, a commission set up by the European Economic Community (now European Union) recommended retaining the 87 miles of the Danube between the regions as the new international border.

Neither side was particularly happy with the new arrangement, but Croatia was particularly aggrieved, having given up much more of its traditional turf than the Serbs. As a result, Croatia disowns Gornja Siga, as Liberland is known locally, while simultaneously refusing to cede it to Liberland.

It’s a consolation prize neither Croatia nor Serbia wants, but for half a million would-be Liberlanders, it could be home.