Look back to how comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy became President of Ukraine

From the role of school teacher to the president of a country in turmoil, Volodymyr Zelensky (also spelled Volodymyr Zelenskyy) has seen a career transition that has not followed traditional political leaders.

Here’s a look back at Zelenskyy’s journey from comedian to president:

Start time

Zelensky was born in 1978 to a Jewish family in the industrial metropolis of Kryvyy Rih, Ukraine, USSR, now Ukraine, and moved to Erdenet, Mongolia with his family at a young age. He stayed there for four years before returning to Kryvyy Rih to attend school.

Although he is a native Russian speaker, he is fluent in Ukrainian and English. He studied at the local campus of Kyiv National Economic University, Kryvyy Rih Economic Institute and graduated in 2000 with a law degree.

From law to entertainment

Zelensky picked up some useful communication skills while working as a comedianAFP / Genya SAVILOV

Selenskyj became active in the theater while he was still studying law. This eventually became his main focus. In 1997 he joined the performance group Kvartal 95 in the televised finals of the improv comedy competition KVN (Klub vesyólykh i nakhódchivykh “Club of the Funny and Inventive People”). They became regulars on the show and continued to perform until 2003 when the show aired to the Commonwealth of Independent States.

In 2003, Zelensky co-founded Studio Kvartal 95, a production company that later became one of the country’s most successful entertainment studios. Until 2011 he was artistic director of the productive company.

In 2011 he joined the Ukrainian television channel Inter TV as a general producer. This proved to be short-lived as he left the channel in 2012. In the same year, together with Kvartal 95, he signed a joint production contract with the Ukrainian channel 1+1.

He also appeared in feature films such as Rzhevskiy Versus Napoleon (2012), 8 First Dates (2012) and 8 New Dates (2015).

servant of the people

Zelensky returned to Kvartal 95 as artistic director in 2013 amid escalating turmoil in Ukraine due to endemic corruption and a Russian-backed insurgency.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in 2014 after months of protests, followed by billionaire Petro Poroshenko. However, Poroshenko tried to push through even the smallest reforms.

In the entertainment world, Kanal 1+1 premiered Servant of the People in October 2015, casting Zelensky as a history teacher named Vasiliy Goloborodko, who went viral after delivering an impassioned anti-corruption speech. The show became a smash hit. Goloborodko eventually blazed the trail to the presidency, a story that would prove significant for Zelensky’s off-screen career.

In 2018, Kvartal 95 registered the name Servant of the People as an official political party in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s relationship with Ihor Kolomoisky, the owner of 1+1 and one of the richest people in Ukraine, was put to the test when on December 31, 2018 the actor announced his intention to become a politician via 1+1, and thus Poroshenko Annual new prefix address of the year.

The move left many questioning Kolomoisky’s involvement in Zelenskyy’s campaign. Kolomoisky was a well-known Poroshenko ally.

Zelensky was immediately a front-runner as soon as he declared his candidacy.

way to the presidency

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‘You are my hero!’ Hollywood’s Ben Stiller said of his meeting with Ukrainian comedian and current President Volodymyr ZelenskyyUKRAINIAN PRESIDENT’S PRESS SERVICE via AFP / Handout

Zelenskyj distanced himself from Kolomoisky. His campaign strategy could also be considered unorthodox, as he preferred to present short speeches or comedy routines online rather than hold press conferences and make political statements.

Selenskyj received more than 30% of the votes in the first ballot. Alongside his unpredictable campaign moves, he declined to debate Poroshenko until two days before the second ballot. The debate gathered tens of thousands of spectators at Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium on April 19, 2019. Zelenskyj did not take part in the second debate scheduled for that evening.

Despite being a political novice, he was elected President of Ukraine in 2019. His anti-corruption platform received widespread support, resulting in a landslide victory over Poroshenko with 73% of the vote.

He delivered his inaugural speech in a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian to call for national unity. He also announced the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council) – a move deemed politically necessary as his victory conferred no legislative mandate. In early elections held two months after he was sworn in, Servant of the People won an outright majority, taking 254 out of 450 seats in Parliament.

Presidential Challenges

Zelensky faced his first challenge early in his presidency, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to offer Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine. Zelenskyi poked fun at the offer, responding to a Facebook post in which he extended Ukrainian citizenship to Russians “who suffer from authoritarian or corrupt regimes.”

The Ukrainian President’s early response to the pandemic was similar to that in the rest of the world. It has been pushed back by local levels of government due to business closures and lockdown measures. This and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine had consequences for the national parties in the October 2020 local elections, in which the servant of the people fought while regional parties dominated.

Zelensky in the present

Zelensky, now the face of the Ukrainian resistance, rallied the support of the international community after Putin announced the start of a special military operation in February 2022. Zelensky’s entertainment background would prove significant in information warfare, denying Russian propaganda spreading false information that he had fled the capital.

The United States offered to evacuate Zelenskyy from the war zone. To which he replied, “The fight is here. I need ammo, not a ride.”

On September 6, in an exclusive interview with World News Tonight host David Muir, Zelenskyy called on the US to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine was only intended as a start, then they want to conquer other countries,” he said in a separate late-night address in April.

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