Bitcoin: according to Google trends, Russia is the most Bit-curious country

UPDATE: Bitcoin up again, now over $150

The number of people typing "Bitcoin" into Google is rising everywhere as the value of the virtual currency increases - but nowhere are searchers more feverish than in Russia. According to Google trends Russians are performing the most searches for "Bitcoin" -  followed by Estonia, and then the US and Finland.

The Telegraph suggests this lends support to the idea that Bitcoin's recent rise was driven by the situation in Cyprus, as government trust plummeted and savers looked for ways to circumvent the banks. Russian businesses were hit particularly hard by the crisis as they accounted for around €19bn of Cypriot deposits.

But Russia was topping Bitcoin Google trends as far back as July 2011, and there might be older reasons for Russian interest. The currency has obvious advantages in BRIC countries - bitcoinmoney.com outlined a few of them in this post 9 months ago:

Bitcoin has a bigger potential to improve the lives for those whose savings are at risk of devaluation through inflation, for those whose payments are made costlier as the result of payment system fees, and most importantly for those whose governments impose restrictions on how their money is used.

And once online wagering services like SatoshiDICE had added translations into Russian, the currency faced no barriers to expansion:

Because Bitcoin is not a corporation, nor a bank, nor an agency of any government, nor any formal organization it can thus continue to expand, permeating the BRICs and beyond, organically just as it exists today.  This is an expected and natural progression for this currency.

The currency value continues to soar - on Friday, a single Bitcoin traded at around $135.

UPDATE: now over $150, according to Business Insider

These bears don't know what Bitcoin is. Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.