Azerbaijan, erstwhile member of the now dissolved USSR, is taking another step closer towards cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin.

Earlier, in September 2015, it was reported by Cointelegraph that Azerbaijan was actively discussing the possibility of creating a “Cryptomanat” coin – the cryptocurrency equivalent of its national currency, the Azerbaijani manat.

Now, Azerbaijan is getting its first Bitcoin exchange service. BTC.AZ will be the country’s first BTC exchange services provider, and will also provide educational material on Bitcoin in the local Azerbaijani language. They are expected to begin their services by the end of February 2016.

Cointelegraph interviewed Tabriz Aliyev, co-founder of BTC.AZ to hear more about the state of Bitcoin in Azerbaijan, and his hopes for its future.

Cointelegraph: What are all the services BTC.AZ will provide for Bitcoin enthusiasts?

Tabriz Aliyev: We have prepared a 3 step plan for our company:

  1. We will start by educating local people about bitcoin and blockchain. Tell them how the system works, what are the pros and cons of using bitcoin, and also the risk of owning bitcoins. There is a lack of information material about Bitcoin in Azerbaijani language, and we are planning to focus on this issue by translating and issuing accurate information for local people.
  2. We will act as a dealer by providing customers a service for buying and selling bitcoins through us. The payments options will be cash and credit cards.
  3. In the future, when there are enough participants in the market, we will match the individual buyers and sellers.

CT: What is the attitude of people towards Bitcoin and blockchain in Azerbaijan?

TA: There are only a few people who really have heard of Bitcoin, and even less who understand what blockchain technology is. The concept of decentralized currency is something very new not just for Azerbaijan but for the whole world. Since people don't really understand it, they tend to be skeptical towards it. It will take time for people in Azerbaijan to learn and really understand how Bitcoin and blockchain work and what they represent.

CT: Do you think that the Bitcoin market in Azerbaijan is growing?

TA: We don't expect it to be a big market anytime soon, but as Bitcoin grows into mainstream around the world, we believe Azerbaijan should not lag behind and bitcoin exchanges and businesses should also develop in line with the expansion of bitcoin.

CT: What is the legal status of Bitcoin in the country?

TA: From our research we found that there aren’t any specific regulations related to Bitcoin in Azerbaijan. We concluded that it's unclear whether Bitcoin is considered a currency or an asset by the government. But it should be noted that according to the law any other means of payment other than Azerbaijan Manat is prohibited within the country. As a business you can't accept bitcoins for your products and services, but buying and selling bitcoins is not prohibited.

CT: What would Bitcoin mean to Azerbaijanis?

TA: 2015 had been a bad year for Azerbaijani Manat as it was devalued two times in a single year. The Central Bank of Azerbaijan devalued the national currency against the US dollar 33.5% in February and 47.9% in December. I believe for some people bitcoin could serve as a way for storing their wealth.

CT: It has been 7 years since Bitcoin was first launched. What had stopped others or you from starting a bitcoin exchange service until now? What changed?

TA: Even though bitcoin has been in existence for 7 years, I don't think it has really gone mainstream yet. The lack of regulation has been probably the major block for other people to launch bitcoin services in the past. I think 2016 will be a big year for bitcoin and I expect Azerbaijani government will also issue a necessary law to regulate bitcoin activities.