Who is Volodymyr Zelenskiy?
Volodymyr Zelenskiy is a Ukrainian politician, actor, comedian, director and the President-elect of Ukraine. He started his career as a comedian before establishing himself in politics. Before winning the presidential election, he played the role of President of Ukraine in the popular Ukrainian television series ‘Servant of the People,’ which was produced by his production company ‘Kvartal 95.’ Interestingly, people associated with ‘Kvartal 95’ registered a political party called ‘Servant of the People’ on March 31, 2018, with the production company's lawyer Ivan Bakanov leading the party. On December 31, 2018, Zelenskiy announced his candidacy for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election. On April 21, 2019, Zelenskiy defeated Petro Poroshenko with more than 70% of the votes to win the election.
Childhood & Early Life
Volodymyr Zelenskiy was born Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky on January 25, 1978, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union, to Oleksandr Zelensky and Rimma Zelenska. He spent the initial phase of his childhood in Erdenet, Mongolia, where he lived for four years.
After returning to Ukrainian SSR, he was enrolled at a grammar school. After graduating from school, he attended the ‘Kyiv National Economic University,’ where he studied law. However, he chose not to work as a lawyer and focused on establishing a career in the field of entertainment.
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Volodymyr Zelenskiy became part of an international comedy competition called ‘KVN’ when he was just 17 years old. He then joined a team called ‘Zaporizhia-Kryvyi Rih-Transit,’ which competed in KVN's ‘Major League.’ Subsequently, his team went on to win the league in 1997. In the same year, he formed a team called ‘Kvartal 95,’ which would later become a popular comedy group.
From 1998 to 2003, Zelenskiy’s team ‘Kvartal 95’ competed in KVN's ‘Major League’ and other prestigious competitions. As part of their performance, the members of ‘Kvartal 95’ visited several post-Soviet countries and also spent many days in Moscow. In 2003, ‘Kvartal 95’ began producing television shows for the popular channel ‘1+1.’ In 2005, the team started producing shows for another Ukrainian TV channel ‘Inter.’
In 2006, Zelenskiy took part in the Ukrainian version of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ following which he became a household name. In 2008, ‘Kvartal 95’ produced a comedy series titled ‘Svaty.’ Zelenskiy made his feature film debut in 2009 and portrayed the character of Igor in the Maryus Vaysberg-directed romantic comedy film ‘Love in the Big City.’
From 2010 to 2012, he served as a member of the board and general producer of ‘Inter.’ Meanwhile, he played Anatoly Efremovich Novoseltsev in the Sarik Andreasyan-directed 2011 Russian-Ukrainian romantic comedy film ‘Office Romance. Our Time.’ The following year, he played Napoleon in the Maryus Vaysberg-directed Russian comedy film ‘Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon.’ In 2012, he also played the lead role of Nikita Sokolov in a Russian-Ukrainian romantic comedy film titled ‘8 First Dates.’
In August 2014, Zelenskiy condemned the ‘Ukrainian Ministry of Culture’ for imposing a ban on Russian artists in Ukraine. When Ukrainian media reported that ‘Kvartal 95’ had donated one million hryvnias to the Ukrainian army during the ‘War in Donbass,’ Russian politicians petitioned for a ban on Zelenskiy's works in Russia. At the time when Zelenskiy was embroiled in a political tussle between Ukraine and Russia, he was cast to play the president of Ukraine in a television series titled ‘Servant of the People.’
Zelenskiy’s popularity increased in 2015, when he became part of ‘Servant of the People.’ He played the president of Ukraine from 2015 to 2019, appearing in almost all the episodes of the series. Interestingly, Zelenskiy would go on to become the President-elect of Ukraine in real life. Meanwhile, he also appeared in films such as ‘8 New Dates’ and ‘The 8 Best Dates.’
In March 2018, ‘Kvartal 95’ set up a political party named ‘Servant of the People.’ In December 2018, Zelenskiy announced his candidacy for the 2019 presidential election. In an interview with a German weekly news magazine ‘Der Spiegel,’ he said that he became a politician to bring decent and professional people to power.
Zelenskiy toured with ‘Kvartal 95’ during his election campaign. Before the elections, he formed a team that included veteran politician Oleksandr Danylyuk among others. During his election campaign, Zelenskiy said that he would want Ukraine to join the ‘North Atlantic Treaty Organization’ (NATO) and the ‘European Union’ (EU). However, he also said that the people of Ukraine should decide on Ukrainian membership with organizations such as ‘NATO’ and ‘EU.’
Zelenskiy went on to say that his aspiration is to build a powerful and free Ukraine. He also promised bills to fight corruption and to increase the salary of military personnel. In December 2018, he stated that he would try to end the ‘War in Donbass’ if he gets elected as the president.
In an interview, which was published three days before the election, Zelenskiy said that he was against granting ‘special status’ to the Donbass region. Unlike many other former presidents, he supported the free distribution of medical cannabis, legalization of gambling and prostitution, and free abortion in Ukraine. However, he opposed the legalization of weapons.
On April 21, 2019, Zelenskiy was elected President of Ukraine when he defeated Petro Poroshenko, attaining more than 70% of the votes. Subsequently, he was congratulated by French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish President Andrzej Duda, and American President Donald Trump.
Family & Personal Life
Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s father, Oleksandr, works as a professor at the ‘Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics’ where he leads an academic department of computing hardware and cybernetics. Zelenskiy’s mother, Rimma, worked as an engineer.
Zelenskiy married Olena Kiyashko in September 2003. Zelenskiy and Kiyashko went to the same grammar school. In July 2004, Zelenskiy and Kiyashko were blessed with a daughter named Oleksandra.
Oleksandra appeared in the 2014 movie ‘8 New Dates’ in which she played protagonist's daughter, Sasha. In 2016, Oleksandra won 50,000 hryvnias after competing in a show called ‘The Comedy Comedy's Kids.’ In January 2013, Zelenskiy and Kiyashko were blessed with their second child, a son named Cyril Zelensky.