Media noted that Bitcoin is trading up to $20,000 above the market rate on Russian exchanges. jokingly called this the “matreshka prime,” as a twist on the kimchi prime, which was a prevalent phenomenon around 2016.

“Matreshka”, or the matryoshka doll, are colorfully painted wooden dolls of decreasing size that are nestled inside one another. It is perhaps the best-known symbol of Russia, representing respect for the elderly, family unity, fertility, abundance, and the search for truth and meaning.

Although “premium matreshka” does not have the same sound as premium kimchi, the two exist for similar reasons.

Blast from the Past: Premium Kimchi

Kimchi premium is a term used to describe the difference in price between tokens on Korean exchanges compared to the rest of the world. The most significant difference was mainly seen in Bitcoin.

Since the fermented cabbage dish is a Korean staple, what better way to represent this situation?

Around 2016, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was ratcheting up tensions in the region, including missile tests. By the way, missile launches resumed in 2022, indicating a return to hostilities.

This led to capital controls that restricted the flow of money to and from Korea. The ensuing difficulties in moving money led to delayed demand and a temporary spike in cryptocurrency prices.

“An increase in the kimchi premium may be an indicator of increased retail investment in Bitcoin by Korean investors.”

At the height of the kimchi premium, Bitcoin was trading up to 50% above the market rate. While it still exists today, it is much rarer, reaching around 5%.

Bitcoin rises higher against expectations

Also, tensions between neighboring Russia and Ukraine erupted into war last week. The resulting sanctions have excluded some Russian banks from the SWIFT global payment network.

Since then, the ruble has sunk to record lows against the dollar, with 1 ruble currently valued at $0.01. In response, the Russian central bank raised rates to 20% in a bid to counter hyperinflationary pressures.


The BTC/ruble pair has recorded the highest trading volume since last May. Clara Medalie, head of research at Kaiko, said that Bitcoin hryvnia and ruble trading pairs have seen increased activity “magnitudes greater” than BTC/USD.

And with the fact that there is a “matreshka premium”, it is clear that many Russians see Bitcoin as a safer bet than the ruble.


The outbreak of war last week plunged Bitcoin to $34,300. But a strong performance on Monday saw an 18% upside turn to close the day at $43,000.

Despite last week’s drawdown, Bitcoin’s safe haven narrative remains intact.

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