Pavel Valeryevich Durov (Russian: Павел Валерьевич Дуров; born 10 October 1984),[4] is a Russian-born French-Emirati entrepreneur who is known for founding the social networking site VK and the app Telegram Messenger.[5] He is the younger brother of Nikolai Durov. As of 29 September 2022, his net worth is estimated at US$15.1 billion.[6] In 2022, he was recognized as the richest person in the United Arab Emirates according to Forbes.[7] In February 2023, Arabian Business named him the most powerful entrepreneur in Dubai.[8]

Pavel Durov
Pavel Valeryevich Durov

(1984-10-10) 10 October 1984 (age 39)
CitizenshipRussian (1984–present)
Kittitian[1] (2015–present)
French[2] (2021–present)
Emirati[3] (2021–present)
Alma materSaint Petersburg State University
Years active2006–present
Known forFounding VK in 2006 and Telegram Messenger in 2013
TitleCEO of Telegram Messenger
RelativesNikolai Durov (brother)

For some years after his dismissal as CEO of VK in 2014,[9] the Durov brothers travelled the world in self-imposed exile[10] as citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis.[11]

In 2017, Pavel joined the World Economic Forum (WEF) Young Global Leaders as a representative of Finland.[12][13] Durov was naturalized as French in August 2021 and therefore now has European Union citizenship.[2]

Early life and education edit

Pavel Durov was born in Leningrad, but spent most of his childhood in Turin, Italy, where his father was employed.[14] In 2006, he graduated from the Philology Department of the Saint Petersburg State University, where he received a first-class degree. Durov's early life and career are described in detail in the book The Durov Code. The True Story of VK and its Creator (2012).[15]

Family edit

Pavel Durov and Mike Butcher at the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco, 2015

Pavel Durov's grandfather Semyon Petrovich Tulyakov fought in World War II. He served in the 65th Infantry Regiment, participated in the battles on the Leningrad front at Krasnoborsky, Gatchinsky, and elsewhere, and was wounded three times, receiving the Order of the Red Star,[16] the Order of the Patriotic War 2nd degree,[17] and on the 40th Victory Day, the Order of the Great Patriotic War level I.[18] After the war, he was arrested.[19]

Durov's father Valery Semenovich Durov is a Doctor of Philological Sciences and the author of many academic papers. Since 1992, he has been head of the Department of classical philology of the philological faculty of Saint Petersburg State University.[20] In March 2022, Durov wrote that "On my Mom's side, I trace my family line from Kyiv. Her maiden name is Ukrainian (Ivanenko), and to this day we have many relatives living in Ukraine."[21]

Career edit

VK edit

Pavel Durov and Alexander Plyushchev at the “Runet Prize 2010” award ceremony

In 2006, Durov started VKontakte with Ilya Perekopsky,[22] later known as VK, which was initially influenced by Facebook.[23] When he and his brother Nikolai built up the VKontakte website, the company grew to a value of $3 billion.[11]

In 2011, he was involved in a standoff with the police in Saint Petersburg when the government demanded the removal of opposition politicians' pages after the 2011 election to the Duma; Durov posted a picture of a dog with his tongue out wearing a hoodie and the police left after an hour when he did not answer the door.[15][23]

In 2012, Durov publicly posted a picture of himself extending his middle finger and calling it his official response to Group's efforts to buy VK.[15] In December 2013, Durov decided to sell his 12% to Ivan Tavrin (at that time 40% of the shares belonged to Group, and 48% to the United Capital Partners). Later, Tavrin resold these shares to Group.[24][11][25][26]

Dismissal from VK edit

On 1 April 2014, Durov submitted his resignation to the board; at first, due to the fact the company confirmed he had resigned, it was believed to be related to the Russo-Ukrainian War which had started in February.[27] However, Durov himself claimed it was an April Fool's Joke on 3 April 2014.[28][29]

On 16 April 2014, Durov publicly refused to hand over the personal data of Ukrainian protesters to Russia's security agencies and to block Alexei Navalny's page on VK.[9] Instead, he posted the relevant orders on his own VK page,[30][31] claiming that the requests were unlawful.

Pavel Durov and Arkady Volozh at the Yandex Data Factory conference, March 2, 2015

On 21 April 2014, Durov was dismissed as CEO of VK. The company claimed it was acting on his letter of resignation a month earlier that he failed to recall.[9][32] Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin's allies,[32][33] suggesting his ouster was the result of both his refusal to hand over personal details of users to federal law enforcement and his refusal to hand over the personal details of people who were members of a VK group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement.[32][33] Durov then left Russia and stated that he had "no plans to go back"[33] and that "the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment".[9]

Telegram edit

Upon leaving Russia, he obtained Saint Kitts and Nevis citizenship by donating $250,000 to the country's Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation and secured $300 million in cash within Swiss banks. This allowed him to focus on creating his next company, Telegram, focused on an encrypted messaging service of the same name. Telegram was headquartered in Berlin and later moved to Dubai.[11] In January 2018 Durov announced that, in a bid to monetize the growing success of Telegram, he was launching the "Gram" cryptocurrency and the TON platform.[34] It raised a total of $1.7 billion from investors.[35] However, these ventures were halted by American regulator SEC which argued in court that Grams bypassed U.S. financing laws and should return the money to investors.[36]

Pavel Durov at the TechCrunch conference in Berlin, 2013

In 2018, Russia attempted to block Telegram, after the company refused to cooperate with Russian security services. A leaked letter by an FSB employee stated that the block was actually tied to the company's intention to launch the Telegram Open Network.[37] During the attempted block period, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to operate official channels on the app. The block order was lifted in 2020, after two years of block attempts, which the service reportedly evaded using domain fronting. The stated reason was Telegram agreeing to "counter terrorism and extremism" on the platform.[38][39][40][41]

Wealth edit

Durov was listed on the Forbes Billionaires List in 2022, with a net worth of $15.1 billion. His fortune is largely driven by his ownership of Telegram. As of September 2022, Durov was the 104th richest person in the world.[6]

Personal life edit

According to Forbes, Durov is not married and has two children.[6] He lives in Dubai.[42] In April 2021, he received United Arab Emirates citizenship.[3]

Views edit

Durov is a self-described libertarian, teetotaler, and vegetarian.[43][44][45][46][47] Durov claims to have an ascetic lifestyle, and promotes freedom from personal possessions.[48][49][50] For his twenty-seventh birthday in 2011, he donated a million dollars to the Wikimedia Foundation,[51] the founder and honorary chairman of which is fellow libertarian Jimmy Wales.[52] In 2012, he published manifestos described by commentators as libertarian detailing his ideas on improving Russia.[53]

Accolades edit

Durov has been called the Mark Zuckerberg of Russia.[54] In August 2014, Durov was named the most promising Northern European leader under 30.[55] In 2017, he was chosen to join the WEF Young Global Leaders, representing Finland.[12][13] On 21 June 2018, the Union of Kazakhstan's Journalists bestowed an award on Durov "for his principled position against censorship and the state's interference into citizens' free online correspondence."[56] In 2018, Fortune magazine included Durov in their "40 Under 40" list, an annual ranking of the most influential young people in business.[57] In February 2023, Durov was named the most powerful entrepreneur in Dubai by Arabian Business.[8]

References edit

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External links edit