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Veronika Szűcs Rajničová
February 27, 2022, 9:40am
Reading time: 5:54

10 Facts About Volodymyr Zelenskyy: How He Won Via Social Media, How Trump Wanted To Use Him, And Why Moscow Liked Him at First

Zelenskyy's presidential campaign was unconventional. He did not organize any major meetings or distribute leaflets. His main domain was the internet and social media. His motto was "The president is a servant of the nation “

Veronika Szűcs Rajničová
February 27, 2022, 9:40am
Reading time: 5:54
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10 Facts About Volodymyr Zelenskyy: How He Won Via Social Media, How Trump Wanted To Use Him, And Why Moscow Liked Him at First
Zdroj: TASR/AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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The comedian, who became the Ukrainian president played the role of fictional president in a TV series, led a decisive political debate at the football stadium, and invited fellow entertainers to the office. You may be surprised that his native language is Russian. However, in his position as president, he takes the current situation with all seriousness. What do we know about Volodymyr Zelenskyy?


1. He comes from a Jewish family

 Volodymyr Zelenskyy was born in January 1978 to a Jewish family, in a mining town Kryvyi Rih of the Dnipropetrovsk region. His father worked as a professor of mathematics and an engineer, which allowed Zelenskyy to undertake a four-year stay in Mongolia as a young man. His mother is also an engineer. He is the first president of Jewish origin in a country where pogroms were, only hundred years ago, Jews were fought against.

Although Zelenskyy's presidential rival, Petro Poroshenko, tried to abuse his origin and his social media adviser wrote that Ukraine's leader should be a Christian, Zelenskyy’s campaign did not emphasize his Jewish origin. On the contrary, according to the New York Times, he said that being a Jew "was one of his twenty dubious qualities."


2. He was a president, even before the election

The current Ukrainian president studied law at the Kiev National University of Economics but has not put his education into practice. Instead of spreadsheets in Excel, he focused on the stage and developed his career as an actor and comedian. He starred in several successful films, but his greatest success came from the comedy series Servant of the Nation.

Ironically, he played the fictional Ukrainian President Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko. The story shows the success of a young high school history teacher who wins the election after spreading a viral video criticizing the corrupt Ukrainian government.


The Servant of the Nation premiered in 2015, relatively shortly after the removal of Viktor Yanukovych and at a time when the new President Petro Poroshenko was struggling to calm the situation within the country. Zelenskyy was the main protagonist of the story and also a producer. The series was covered by his company Kvartal 95. In total, they broadcast three series and more than 50 episodes. 

3. His party was named after a TV show

The Servant of the Nation was Zelenskyy's unusual ticket to the world of politics. In 2018, Kvartal 95 officially registered a political party with the same name.

In the end, the party did not win any seats in parliament, but Zelenskyy unexpectedly scored in the presidential election and, after taking office, hired some comedy colleagues to his administration, saying they would be more resistant to corruption.

4. Problematic Kolomoyskyi

The fight against corruption was one of the main pillars of Zelenskyy’s program. During the campaign, however, they started being associated with a very dubious Ukrainian figure. He used an armoured Mercedes, which was registered to Ihor Kolomoyskyi.

The billionaire co-founded the largest Ukrainian bank Privatbank, which was nationalized in 2016. So he had good reason to hate Zelenskyy's main rival Petr Poroshenko. Kolomoyskyi won the people's sympathy after defeating the Russian separatists by deploying his own combat troops. He allegedly keeps a shark in the office to scare his guests.


He was connected with Zelenskyy through the television channel on which they broadcast the Servant of the Nation. During Zelensky‘s presidential campaign, the 1 + 1 channel devoted 14% of its broadcasting time to programs produced by Zelensky, the company Kvartal 95, and the news programs about it - unlike the programs about Poroshenko - reported only positive news.

However, they accuse the oligarch of widespread corruption and abuse of power while serving as governor in the Dnipropetrovsk region. The US even imposed sanctions on him. In his election program, Zelenskyy promised an end to the oligarchs and corruption. He is also expected to take action against Kolomoyskyi to refute claims that he is just his puppet..

5. Unconventional campaign 

Zelenskyy's presidential campaign was unconventional. He did not organize any major meetings or distribute leaflets. His main domain was the internet and social media. His motto was "the president is a servant of the nation".

Instead of officially publishing his manifesto, he published a video on Facebook shortly after the candidacy was announced, calling on Ukrainians to help him figure out with what the manifesto should contain. The video had 1.2 million views and over 10,000 comments.

In another video, he asked for tips on which professionals he should hire into his office. He wanted to prove that as president he would listen to Ukrainians.



The debate with Peter Poroshenko before the second round of elections took place at Zelenskyy's request at the National Football Stadium in front of 22,000 spectators. During election night, he played ping pong with journalists at headquarters. Only those who won, got an interview. 

6. Antisystem candidate

The Politico portal wrote that Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the least prepared presidential candidate in the world to lead a democratic state. However, voters who were tired of a long-term dysfunctional state were satisfied

The main points of his campaign were to end the war in Donbas by dialogue with Russia, to eliminate corruption and to ensure a better life for ordinary people. He supports Ukraine's membership in both the EU and NATO,  but argues that Ukrainians should decide on this through a referendum. The fact is that in the long run, most people in Ukraine are in favour of joining these organisation.

Outside the spotlight, in the real life, promises are more difficult to deliver, but according to the New York Times anti-corruption activists see progress. Zelenskyy's new Attorney General tried to clear the office before the war and managed to get rid of hundreds of prosecutors suspected of corruption. The president has even signed legislation to allow his own impeachment. But the hottest question remains what he will do with Kolomoyskyi.

7. He supported Euromaidan and soldiers in Donbas

Zelenskyy supported the Euromaidan movement, which organized anti-government protests, and the Ukrainian army in Donbas. However, as president, he promised to try to resolve the conflict through dialogue with Russia.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, he spoke of two scenarios for returning Donbas under the control of Kiev. According to him, the people of Donbas should realize that they are Ukrainians, and the Ukrainian authorities should show the people within the conflict regions, that they still consider them their citizens.

He insists that Ukraine should pay pensions to the people of Luhansk and Donetsk, even though it is a big burden on the budget. According to him, Crimea will return to Ukraine only if Russia's leadership changes.

8. Russian is his mother tongue

Zelenskyy's mother tongue is Russian, although today he is fluent in Ukrainian and English. He was born in a predominantly Russian-speaking area. That is why, in the current situation, he speaks to Russian in their language.

As the president has repeatedly advocated for the fact that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are also full citizens of the state, and fought against the suppression of the use of the Russian language.


9. He accidentally helped with Trump’s first impeachment

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy became known around the world. President Donald Trump pushed him towards a "small favour" urging him to investigate the mishaps of his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In exchange for this, Trump promised militarily help for Ukraine. Zelenskyy was only in the office for a very short time when this happened. The scandal, brough to light by a U.S. intelligence official, led to Trump's first impeachment.

The Ukrainian president was silent on the matter at first. He then said that he was not under pressure and no conditions were set. He added that within the Ukrainian political system, the president does not have the power to order the prosecutor general or investigative bodies to work on a particular case.



10. His beginnings with Putin were optimistic

After Zelenskyy won the election, former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote on Facebook that there was a chance that interaction between Russia and Ukraine would improve if honesty, and a pragmatic and responsible approach were maintained.

Maria Zacharov, a spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry, even said that Ukraine could experience a reset.

At first, Zelenskyy spoke of constructive dialogues with the Russian president, but being upfront about the fact, that he did not really trust anyone. As the pressure from the Kremlin escalated, he began to make fun of Putin. When Putin wrote a letter about Ukraine, the Ukrainian president joked, that Putin probably had plenty of time on his hands, if he can write such essays


Relationships were becoming increasingly more tense. Zelensky began to suspect Russia of plotting against Ukraine. In the context of the current events of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the President believes that he is Putin’s number one target. The second one being his family.


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Thumbnail: TASR/AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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