Nikolai Durov: Biography, Pavel Durov’s Brother

23 days ago
Nikolai Durov
Nikolai Durov

Everyone knows that the creator of the popular social network VKontakte is Pavel Durov. It is also known that the Telegram messenger is his project. And for the past three years, Durov has often appeared in the media due to the creation of the Telegram Open Network (TON) darknet platform. But few people know that behind Pavel there is a team of programmers who help him to implement his ambitious projects. And among these programmers there is his older brother — Nikolai Durov. It is about him that we will talk about in this biographical article.

Who is Nikolai Durov

Nikolai Durov — is Pavel Durov's brother, the creator of VKontakte and Telegram. Nikolai is not a media person, so you cannot find an interview with him on the Internet. And nevertheless, some information about Nikolai was obtained thanks to an interview with his associates in Forbes magazine, Nikolai Kononov's book "The Durov Code" and a revelatory article by Anton Rosenberg, which we will discuss in more detail below. 

Biography

Nikolai was born on November 21, 1980 in St. Petersburg, in a family of intellectuals Albina and Valerii Durov. From childhood, his parents instilled in Nikolai a love of knowledge, especially the exact sciences. From the age of three, Nikolai read popular science literature. Once, to brighten up a boring trolleybus ride, parents gave little Nikolai a book "Popular Astronomy". When fellow travelers saw a child with a serious book in his hands, they thought that he was just looking at the pictures, but in fact he was reading. Nikolai learned arithmetic early, and at the age of seven he was already solving cubic equations.

As a child, Nikolai and his parents had to move to Italy, as his father was offered a job there. Nikolai studied at an Italian school for a couple of years, where he quickly became famous for his abilities and even took part in the prodigy show on local television. 

After returning to Russia, Nikolai entered the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum, where he studied until he entered St. Petersburg State University. On behalf of the university, he participated in international and All-Russian Olympiads. By the way, the number of Nikolai's medals for winning the Olympiads is impressive: one gold and three silver medals in computer science, and three gold medals in mathematics. 

World Programming Champions, Vancouver (Canada), 2001. Nikolai Durov, second from left
World Programming Champions, Vancouver (Canada), 2001. Nikolai Durov, second from left

After graduating from St. Petersburg University, Nikolai became a candidate of physical and mathematical sciences, after which he continued his studies at the University of Bonn (Germany), where he defended his doctoral dissertation on the topic "A new approach to the geometry of Arakelov", thereby he contributed to arithmetic geometry and became a Ph.D. in mathematics.

Nikolai’s Oddities

As a representative of "typical nerds," Nikolai is very smart, not particularly talkative and a little odd. There is a stereotype that ingenious programmers are in contact with technology better than with people, socially inactive, and with excessive attention they feel uncomfortable. According to Anton Rosenberg, this stereotype is applicable to Nikolai. 

Nikolai was always an authority for everyone in his studies and work, everyone admired his erudition, but in everyday life, Nikolai was a big child. Therefore, he lived with his parents until 2015, and when he moved out of them, friends and colleagues helped him organize his life. 

At the SPbU forum, which was created by Pavel Durov, Nikolai had the nickname K.O.T., which eventually became his nickname. Rosenberg claims that Kolya identifies his personality with a cat, and calls his own mother "Big Cat". He also has a habit of imitating meowing in the street and encourages others to join this harmless activity. Once during the negotiations, Nikolai, looking at the ceiling, said “Where is our Morpheus?”, which caused confusion among those present. Anton suggests that the reason for this strange behavior is the death of his cat, named Morpheus.

Repost screen from Nikolai's VKontakte page
Repost screen from Nikolai's VKontakte page

After the publication of Rosenberg's article, sofa critics and homegrown psychologists diagnosed Nikolai. Allegedly, if there is psychosis due to parental overprotection and "perfectionist syndrome". But judging by Nikolai's profile on VKontakte, he really loves the younger representatives of the cat family, as he often posts their photos, memes and quotes about them on his page. Nikolai's love for cats led to the appearance of the notorious meme "The world through the eyes of Nikolai Durov":

Meme "The world through the eyes of Nikolai Durov"
Meme "The world through the eyes of Nikolai Durov"

Nikolai Durov VKontakte

On the Internet, you can often find the theory that the original developer of the popular social network "VKontakte" is Nikolai Durov, but this is just a reflection of the stereotype "a programmer means he invented". Nikolai Durov himself denied it, saying that his help at the initial stage consisted of writing a couple of lines of PHP code and assistance in system administration. 

A year and a half after its launch, the social network needed to develop a specialized data storage system for normal functioning. It was then that Nikolai began to work on a full-fledged basis, while he called his friend Andrei Lopatin to help him (with whom Nikolay participated in the Olympiads) and other developers. Having organized the team, Nikolay Durov became the technical director of VKontakte. 

Anton Rosenberg and Nikolai Durov in the server room "VKontakte"
Anton Rosenberg and Nikolai Durov in the server room "VKontakte"

Led by Nikolai, the development team optimized server load balancing, which led to the acceleration of the social network. It is noteworthy that for VKontakte, its own version of the PHP programming language was created, which was called KPHP. Also, thanks to Durov's team, many options were introduced for users that appeared on the competing social network much later, for example, the internal currency. 

In writing program code, Nikolai always strived for brevity. He believes that the code should be easy to implement, so you should always strive to reduce the code of complex algorithms from 20 KB to 1 KB. 

Nikolai worked at VKontakte until 2014, when his brother Pavel Durov left the post of CEO, taking with him all the talented developers. 

One of the few videos available publicly with Nikolai Durov: 

Topological models of algebraic varieties | Nikolai Durov

Nikolai Durov and Telegram

Telegram
Telegram

Since 2011, Pavel Durov had an idea to create a secure messenger. And Nikolay helped in the implementation of this idea: he developed the MTProto encryption protocol, which in the future became the basis for the Telegram application. 

Developing the Telegram messenger, in the process Nikolay became the ideological inspirer of the Telegram Open Network (TON) blockchain project. He wrote White Paper TON, which describes the technical details of this blockchain project. By the way, in this document he signed himself as Dr. Durov.

White Paper Telegram TON
White Paper Telegram TON

The idea behind this ambitious project was to create a whole ecosystem, which offered users not only a platform for transactions and smart contracts, but also a separate browser, a Gram payment token and its own anonymity system. 

Unfortunately, in the spring of 2020, Pavel Durov announced that Telegram TON would not launch, since the US Securities Commission (SEC) banned the issuance of the Gram cryptocurrency.

Nikolai Durov vs. Rosenberg

As mentioned above, the main facts of Nikolai's biography are known from the article by Anton Rosenberg "Durov's Cat", which was published on the Medium platform on September 18, 2017. This article is replete with numerous details about the personality of Nikolai Durov

Anton Rosenberg, former deputy technical director of VKontakte and director of special directions at Telegraph LLC
Anton Rosenberg, former deputy technical director of VKontakte and director of special directions at Telegraph LLC

In the article itself, in addition to the personal characteristics of Nikolai and the description of hard working days on VKontakte, very interesting facts surfaced. Anton claims that his messages in the Telegram messenger were partially deleted without his knowledge. By the way, he mentioned that Telegram servers were transported across Europe without the necessary accompanying documents, that is, illegally. 

There was also a remark in the direction of Paul that he is not an ascetic, but a lover of luxury, as he likes to live in expensive hotels and apartments, rents a whole castle in Italy and flies on private jet planes.

The room in the Ritz hotel (Paris, France), where Pavel lived
The room in the Ritz hotel (Paris, France), where Pavel lived

The reason for the publication of the "revelatory" article was the conflict between Anton and Nikolai on the basis of jealousy. According to Anton, Nikolai secretly tried to steal his wife, Ekaterina. By the way, she confirmed that she agrees with all the facts that are given in the written article. Rosenberg did not remain silent and expressed his claims to Nikolai. The latter, in turn, responded to Anton by blocking access to working materials. 

The very cause of the conflict - Ekaterina Rosenberg on VKontakte in 2015
The very cause of the conflict - Ekaterina Rosenberg on VKontakte in 2015

Further, the situation remained unresolved, since Nikolai went to travel, and Anton continued to work with limited access rights. After some time, a meeting took place between Anton and Durov Jr., where the latter only sympathized, suggesting that Anton leave peacefully, since Pavel needed his brother more. Anton refused this offer, considering it unfair to quit because of Nikolai's whims. For refusal, Anton was charged with nineteen absenteeism.

Then Anton filed a claim against Telegram, demanding to reimburse him for the unpaid bonus and salary. In response, the company filed a counterclaim for 100,000 million rubles for the disclosure of commercial secrets. 

As a result, the parties nevertheless signed an amicable agreement under the terms of which Rosenberg renounces the claim against the company, receives one and a half million rubles and an entry in the work book about dismissal of his own free will.

Pavel Durov's Brother

From the above, it becomes clear that Paul values his brother. His deep knowledge of programming and outstanding ability allows Pavel to realize his ambitions. According to eyewitnesses, Pavel is rather anxious and warm towards Nikolai.

The Durov brothers
The Durov brothers

Thanks to Nikolai, Pavel became addicted to writing code from his youth. They went to a programming class together. But as you know, Nikolai was completely immersed in his passion, a man far from monetary, career and other vain aspirations. Although Pavel was on his own mind and kept aloof from the team, he was still more active, distinguished by his entrepreneurial spirit and pragmatism. 

Pavel Durov
Pavel Durov

In the book "The Durov Code" Pavel is described as follows:

"By his type, Durov Jr. was somewhere between nerds and active clever people, and maybe on the side." 

Despite the introverted type of characters, the Durov brothers successfully implement and promote their projects to the outside world. Apparently, in this way the brothers are trying to gradually conquer the world and spread their values. And, perhaps, someday they will succeed, because Paul's ambition and Nikolai's genius are ideal qualities for winning. 

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