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Journalists identify the 26-year-old man behind one of Russia's most popular Telegram channels

StalinGulag is one of Russia’s most popular channels on the instant messenger Telegram, with each post attracting an average 299,900 views. Typically, the account shares socio-political commentary about current events in Russia. The person behind it all has remained anonymous, until now. According to the magazine RBC, the channel’s creator is a 26-year-old man living in Makhachkala named Alexander Gorbunov.

The Twitter account “@StalinGulag” first appeared in June 2013. Based on that account’s early tweets, it used to exist as Gorbunov’s personal Twitter account at “@AlGorbunov,” where he sometimes shared hyperlinks to his posts on LiveJournal, which was also registered in his real name. RBC also discovered that @StalinGulag was originally registered using the same email address listed on Gorbunov’s Vkontakte page.

@StalinGulag currently has almost 1.3 million followers on Twitter, and the Telegram channel (launched in 2016) now has roughly 290,000 subscribers. It costs 150,000 rubles ($2,420) to get sponsored content posted on the channel, and market experts told RBC that the whole project is worth an estimated 5 million rubles ($80,600). The magazine says Gorbunov has even hired a small staff of writers and PR managers to help him run the channel.

RBC asked the user StalinGulagPR if Alexander Gorbunov has retained control over StalinGulag. “As you know, there’s only one person in our country who has everything under his control, and his surname is a bit shorter,” the user answered.