Telegram and Russia

Telegram and Russia

Markus Ra

Many of the core Telegram developers were born in St. Petersburg, Russia – but they can't call this country home. Sadly, Russia's surveillance laws are incompatible with privacy-oriented messaging.

The Telegram development team is based in Dubai.

Pre-launch days

Some Telegram developers worked from St.Petersburg before Telegram's launch. Telegraf LLC (ООО "Телеграф" in Russian), one of Pavel Durov's old companies that he used when he still lived in Russia, acted as their employer. After Durov was ousted from VK and left Russia at the time Internet regulations in Russia became obscene, the company was abandoned. No members of the core Telegram team have been employed there since February 2014.

Proving grounds and Russian spam

In 2016, as Telegram's popularity grew in the region and attracted the usual pests, we began outsourcing some spam-related activities (checking spam reports from Russian users) to a company using Telegraf's old shell. It hired several ex-Vkontakte people to work as moderators.

This new Telegraf also proved helpful for Telegram's contests. The CIS has many talented people, artists, designers, and programmers. Some of those programmers won our contests and joined the Telegram team outside of Russia. But before they could do that, they spent a trial period working for Telegraf. These trials included working on non-sensitive projects without access to Telegram code or private data (for example, the sticker bot).

The end

In spring-summer 2017, a disgruntled employee dealing with spam threatened to draw the attention of the Russian authorities to Telegraf. We immediately stopped working with them since we didn't want Telegraf's people to get in trouble with the authorities if they were thought to be representing Telegram. Following the loss of contract from Telegram, the company completely shut down its operations and let go of all moderators in summer 2017.

We hope that one day respect for privacy and rule of law in Russia will rise to a sufficient level for us to open a Telegram office in the country.

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