Telegram and RussiaMarkus Ra
Some users told me they heard rumors that Telegram was based in St. Petersburg. Naturally, it's not. Russia's surveillance laws are incompatible with privacy-oriented messaging.
The Telegram development team is currently based in Dubai.
As for the Petersburg rumors, they've originated with a company called Telegraf LLC (ООО "Телеграф" in Russian).
Telegraf LLC from St.Petersburg was one of Pavel Durov's old companies that he used when he still lived in Russia. Some Telegram developers worked there in the pre-launch days. 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 in our travels. 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).
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.
While many of the core Telegram developers were born in Russia, it is not possible for them to call this country home at the moment. 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.