How successful are websites in Russia? Ask the police

Apr 19, 2013

He’s the Mark Zuckerberg of Russia, creating the Motherland’s most popular social networking site, Vkontakte. And two years ago, Pavel Durov refused Russian security authorities’ order to remove an opposition group from the site.

So it’s likely that the more than 200 million users of Vkontakte will probably post a variety of theories as to why Durov is under investigation for a minor hit-and-run incident involving a police officer in St. Petersburg.

Durov denies involvement in the incident, according to the BBC. Police in St. Petersburg say a white Mercedes drove into a traffic officer, who suffered scrapes and contusions, on 5 April. A spokesman for Vkontakte told the BBC that Durov does not own a car.

“We are working … and suddenly 20 silent men in leather jackets appear,” said Nikolai Durov, co-founder of Vkontakte and brother of the suspect, wrote in a post on the network. Police told journalists they searched the network’s offices in central St. Petersburg and Pavel Durov’s residence.

The good news for the online sector in Russia is that popular websites can make serious money, The Wall Street Journal reports. Revenues from web advertising is so good that Russia’s premiere search engine, Yandex, earned 28.1 billion rubles ($899 million) in 2012 and was growing at an annual rate of 44 percent.

That’s 100 million rubles – a relatively modest sum – behind state-owned Channel One television, which grew last year at a sluggish 0.7 percent. The number of Internet users in Russia is still well below the number of television viewers, but it is gaining steam. The Journal reports that Channel One subsists on revenue from a few big advertisers, while Yandex reaps its harvest from small- and medium-size businesses seeking to connect with customers.

About the Author

Transitions Online

Transitions Online ( is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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