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The mystery behind the creator of Telegram

Pável Dúrov became one of the richest men in Russia after designing the application that has already exceeded 500 million users in the world

Moscow – Little or nothing is known in recent years about the creator of Telegram, Pável Dúrov. He has become one of the richest men in Russia, he is one of the most promising young entrepreneurs in the world, and his social network has already exceeded 500 million users.

“I thought that Dúrov did not exist, that it would be a myth,” Rodión Chépel, director of the first documentary on the 36-year-old entrepreneur that can be seen in Russian cinemas, told Efe.

Dúrov is very jealous of his privacy. She made her last public appearance in 2017 in Indonesia and a few days ago posted her first Instagram post in more than three years.

“He lives between Finland and Dubai,” Mikhail Klimariov, director of the Internet Protection Society, told EFE.

Internet totem

Chépel’s documentary “Dúrov” tries to shed light on a much-admired Russian youth figure, much closer to the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, than to the Kremlin gerontocracy.

“I want to be an internet totem,” he told his teacher upon graduating from an elite high school in St. Petersburg, where the well-known mathematician Grigori Perelmán also studied.

Dúrov, born in the former Tsarist capital and lived in Italy for much of his childhood and adolescence, was clear.

His first step in the digital world was taken when he entered the Faculty of English Philology in Saint Petersburg. He created a virtual library with the student’s work to be consulted by other students.


The creation of an empire

With no time to waste, in 2006, he founded Vkontakte, the Russian Facebook, which quickly became the leading social network in Russia.

The problem is that VK’s influence was so significant that it caught the attention of the Kremlin, chaired by a man from the analog age who is especially suspicious of the internet.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was his refusal to block, at the request of the authorities, the groups that organized the massive demonstrations against electoral fraud in 2011.

Under pressure, Dúrov ended up selling the platform in 2014 to friends of the Kremlin.

At the peak of VK, according to the documentary, he launched paper planes made with dollar bills from the window of his office in the second Russian city, a premonitory gesture since a paper plane is the symbol of Telegram.

With this encrypted messaging service, Dúrov leaped at another dimension that would end up leading him into exile.

Recently, Forbes magazine included him for the first time in the list of the ten richest men in Russia with 17.2 billion dollars, four times more than in 2020.

“Seeing the growth rates of your company, in a few years, it will be the world leader in the sector,” predicts Chépel.

Telegram, a universal monster

“The biggest advantage of Telegram is that it is a mix between a social network and a messaging platform. It is the most comfortable to use and is also an instrument to receive information”, explains Klimariov.

He insists that “there is no other application that has channels, which, are mass media,” to which must be added the possibility of monetizing them.

“I would compare him to Jack Dorsey,” co-founder of Twitter, emphasizes Klimariov.

In mid-April, the Russian press reported that Telegram plans to put 10-20% of its shares on the market in two years.

“The fact that Dúrov holds 100% of the shares sets it apart from other businessmen in the sector. Going public in this situation is something unique,” explains Chépel.

Conflicts and prohibited content

At the time, Krimaliov was one of those who participated in 2018 in the resistance movement against the blockade of Telegram in Russia, which demanded from Dúrov the identity of users in the framework of the fight against terrorism.

“He never handed anyone over to the police,” said Krimaliov, who maintains sporadic contacts with the businessman about the fight against certain controversial content on the internet.

The filmmaker and the activist agree that Dúrov has no ideology. He defines himself as a libertarian, although his creation has become the preferred instrument of the opposition from Belarus to Hong Kong.

Telegram is very safe for civil society, but it also has a moderation system that eliminates channels with dangerous information, whether linked to suicides, drug trafficking, or extremism,

“Dúrov listens to his surroundings. They are complicated issues from a moral point of view,” explains Klimariov.

Fear of a witch hunt

Dúrov broke his silence this week on Telegram to report that the network blocked within an hour the account of the attacker who killed nine people in a shooting at a school in the city of Kazan.

This type of event “should not serve as an excuse to organize a witch hunt or to turn society into a concentration camp,” he warned.

Due to pressure from the Kremlin, Dúrov left Russia in 2014 with the intention not to return. According to the documentary, Neo has become Morpheus, both characters from the movie “The Matrix.”