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Messenger Founder Pavel Durov: The Telegram Billionaire and His Dark Empire

By Christina Hebel, Marcel Rosenbach, Max Hoppenstedt

11 Jun 2021 · 17 min read

Pavel Durov squats shirtless in the lotus position on a hotel roof, the skyline of Dubai stretching out in the background. The Instagram photo, which looks like it could be one of thousands of other selfies from random influencers, is one of the rare signs of life from one of the world’s richest and most influential internet entrepreneurs. Some call the 36-year-old "Russia’s Zuckerberg” because he founded the Russian Facebook clone VKontakte in 2006. But his latest investment is much more significant: Telegram, arguably the world’s most dangerous messenger service.

Little is known about the Russian billionaire, who is considered to be the richest person in his adopted home of Dubai. And what he does say in public often sounds puzzling. "The outside world is a reflection of the inside one,” he wrote as the caption under his Instagram photo.

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