Pavel Valeryevich Durov (Russian: Па́вел Вале́рьевич Ду́ров; born 10 October 1984) is a Russian entrepreneur who is best known for being the founder of the social networking site VK, and later the Telegram Messenger. He is the younger brother of Nikolai Durov. Since being dismissed as CEO of VK in 2014, the Durov brothers have traveled the world in self-imposed exile as citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis. In 2017 Pavel joined the World Economic Forum (WEF) Young Global Leaders as a representative of Finland.
Pavel Durov's grandfather Semyon Petrovich Tulyakov participated in the World War II. He served in the 65th Infantry Regiment, participated in the battles at Leningrad front on Krasnoborsky Gatchinsky and other directions, was wounded three times, receiving the Order of the Red Star, the Order of the Patriotic War II degree, and on the 40th Victory Day, the Order of the Great Patriotic War level I. After the war, he was arrested.
Durov's father Valery Semenovich Durov is a Doctor of Philological Sciences, the author of many scientific papers, and since 1992 he has been head of the department of classical philology of philological faculty of St. Petersburg State University.
Durov's brother Nikolai Durov is a mathematician, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences, winner of multiple Russian and international competitions in mathematics and informatics, twice the absolute world champion in programming among students, has been the technical director of "VKontakte" since the founding, and until mid-2013.
Pavel Durov was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), but spent most of his childhood in Turin, Italy. His father Valery (who holds a PhD in philology) was employed there. He attended an Italian elementary school, and after returning to Russia in 2001 attended the Academy Gymnasium in St. Petersburg. In 2006, he graduated from the Philology Department of the Saint Petersburg State University, where he received a first class degree. Pavel Durov's early life and career are described in detail in the Russian-language book The Durov Code. The True Story of VK and its Creator (2012).
Durov started VKontakte, later known as VK, in 2006, which was initially influenced by Facebook. During the time when he and his brother Nikolai built upon the VKontakte website, the company grew to a value of $3 billion.
In 2011 he was involved in a standoff with a police team outside his home in St. Petersburg after the government demanded the removal of opposition politicians' pages after controversial parliamentary elections. They left after about an hour.
In December 2013, Durov was pressured into selling his 12% of VK stock to Ivan Tavrin, the owner of the major Russian internet company Mail.ru, who subsequently sold it to Mail.ru, giving it 52% majority ownership of VK. In 2014, Mail.ru bought all remaining shares became the sole owner of VK.
Dismissal from VK
On April 1, 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 Ukrainian crisis which started in February. However, Durov himself claimed it was an April Fool's Joke on April 3, 2014.
On April 16, 2014, Durov publicly refused to hand over data of Ukrainian protesters to Russia's security agencies and block Alexei Navalny's page on VK. Instead he posted the relevant orders on his own VK page claiming that the requests were unlawful.
On April 21, 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. Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin's allies, 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 VKontakte group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement. Durov then left Russia and stated that he had "no plans to go back" and that "the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment".
Durov also, helped to develop a social network called Galaxy - Chat & Play, for the Russian group Mobstudio.
Life after VK
Upon leaving Russia, he obtained Saint Kitts and Nevis citizenship through donating $250,000 to the country's Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, and secured US$300 million in cash within Swiss banks. This allowed him to focus on creating his next company, Telegram, which was originally based in Berlin and focused on an encrypted messaging service.
Durov is a self-described libertarian and vegetarian. In 2012, he published manifestos described by commentators as "anarcho-capitalist" detailing his ideas on improving Russia. For his twenty-seventh birthday in 2011, he donated a million dollars to the Wikimedia Foundation, the founder and honorary chairman of which is a fellow libertarian Jimmy Wales.
He has been called the Mark Zuckerberg of Russia.
In August 2014, Pavel Durov was named the most promising Northern European leader under 30. He was in 2017 chosen to join the WEF Young Global Leaders, representing Finland.