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Vkontakte's Pavel Durov Departs: Genuine or Joke?

Pavel Durov leaves Vkontakte for good? For real, or is it an April Fools' joke? Images mixed by author.

Pavel Durov leaves Vkontakte for good? For real, or is it an April Fools’ joke? Images mixed by author.

In what is either a bombshell for Russian social media or a daring April Fools’ Day joke, Vkontakte general director Pavel Durov has announced his resignation. (For what it's worth, The Moscow Times reported this story earlier today without any hint that it could be a holiday prank.) The news came today in a post on Vkontakte, Russia's largest online social network, where Durov explained his departure as the result of a year of internal bickering, rebuking but not naming the company's minority shareholder, United Capital Partners. “The general director's freedom to manage the company has decreased significantly,” he wrote, complaining that UCP's meddling has made it increasingly difficult to uphold the website's “founding principles.”

In a nod to fellow geeks, Durov also posted a photograph of two dolphins jumping into the air, with the caption, “So long, and thanks for all the fish”—a reference to the comedy science fiction series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

A parting message from Pavel Durov?

While the timing of Durov's announcement makes it entirely possible that it is merely a prank, the website TJournal claims to have three independent sources who days earlier verified that Durov would indeed resign from Vkontakte. Having said that, speculation about Vkontakte's chief stepping down has been a regular feature of the news for a year now. When TJournal asked Durov about the rumor on March 26, 2014, he denied any plans to leave, calling the idea “just another attempt to cause a stir.”

Currently, Vkontakte's press secretary is declining to comment on Durov's announcement. Majority shareholder Mail.ru Group, however, confirms the resignation. UCP representative Nafisa Nasyrova also corroborated the story, telling Interfax News that Durov formally resigned a few days ago. While this would seem to end any confusion about whether or not Durov really is leaving, Nasyrova added, “If this isn't some April 1st joke, then Durov by law should give a month's notice before he actually leaves office.” In other words, UCP isn't sure, after all, that Vkontakte's founder is in fact quitting.

Durov is certainly an audacious man, but would he spoof the people who own his company like this? Hopefully, April 2 will bring answers.

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