Life and times of Zelenskyy
EARLIER to the outbreak of Russia-Ukraine declared war on 24 February 2022, very few of us were knowing Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, popularly famous as Zelenskyy who is the sixth President of Ukraine and bravely fighting against the army of a one-time superpower, Soviet Federation for about one and half months.
Born on 25 January 1978 in a Jewish family located in southern Ukraine and his father happened to be a professor and computer scientist at the Kryvyi Rih State University of Economics and Technology, while mother was professionally an engineer.
Although coming from an intellectual background, he was not much interested in his parental profession and preferred joining, at the age of 17 in a local team competing in the KVN, a popular Russian television show of comedians liked by the people due to their funny and intelligent answers.
Initially, he was invited to join in the Ukrainian team which was a part of KNV’s Major League, but a year later he created and began heading the Kvartal 95 which also became a performer in the Major League of Russian Federation.
Years later his team started producing TV shows for Ukrainian television channel 1+1 but his entire team moved to another channel of Ukraine called Inter.
In an important breakthrough, from 2008 he started producing feature films and continued his career in Love in the Big City (2008), Office Romance (2011), Love in Big City 3 (2012), and 8 First Dates along with many sequels made in 2015 and 2016.
Beginning of political career: Although, his country Ukraine remained an integral part of undivided USSR before early 1990s, Zelenskyy was full of patriotism and in 2014 demanded the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture to ban Russian works of culture from entering the country and, in response, the government, since 2015 prohibited Russian artistes and cultural works.
In the same year Zelenskyy became a star in the popular series Servant of the People in which he played the role of the President of Ukraine and acted the character of a high school history teacher in the 1930s where he highlighted country’s corruption.
As his works were issue-based, his serial Svaty, meaning in-laws, was banned in the country in the year 2017 but unbanned in 2019.
He has a good knowledge and command of Russian language but of late also began working in Ukrainian and his romantic comedy, I, You, He, She, appeared in home language in 2018.
However, in the meantime, his political aspirations took a definite shape when his production company registered a new political party named Servant of the People denying the fact that it had any political will to run the country, but soon in early October 2018, almost three months before the presidential campaign, supposed to be a forerunner in the estimation of public opinion and it was on 31 December 2018 that he announced his presidential candidature for the post on the New Year’s Eve address of the nation through television channel.
His announcement of contesting presidential election made uneasy the then President Petro Poroshenko who was a traditional campaigner of the party rarely using social media for the purpose, while Zelenskyy always took help of modern technology and media methods to convince the mass of the people.
He expressed his wish before the masses to work as an anti-establishment, anti-corruption symbol.
In course of election campaign his opposition charged him of benefiting Russia if comes to power, it however, had no impact on public opinion and he won the presidential candidature by a secured majority in the first round held on 31 March 2019, followed by the final round on 21 April where he got 73% of votes while his opponent won only 25% of total votes polled and finally he was declared elected and his official regime began on 20 May 2019
Zelenskyy facing national challenges: From the year 2014 when a pro-Soviet government was overthrown in Ukraine and in place an anti-Kremlin establishment took over, Russia began eyeing closely developments in Ukraine and started encircling the country by strategically and ultimately by force.
The coming of Zelenskyy as President of the nation and further appointed Volodymyr Groysman as Prime Minister.
In the history of Ukraine, he was the first Jewish President and it also became first nation, after Israel, to have a Jewish head of the state and head of the government.
On assuming office, he initiated/proposed several improvements in national interest but on most of the issues he failed to get a positive support to move further.
However, after assuming presidency, he received first foreign policy challenge from Russian Federation when Putin declared to offer Russian passport to Ukrainian citizens who were living in the separatist areas of eastern Ukraine which was continuing for the last five years, causing a displacement of thousands of people.
In addition, some issues were also erupted with Donald Trump, the then US President, and Joe Biden who succeeded Trump in coming presidential election of America.
With the wide outbreak of pandemic Covid-19 in early 2020, the countries of the world including Ukraine was badly affected like other nations of the world, however, Zelenskyy structured a nation-wide framework to limit and control the pandemic in larger national interest and also implemented necessary measures in this period of health emergency.
The current war with Russia: Ukraine’s external threat increased by the end of the year 2021 when Russian Federation began assembling large number of troops and war material along the side of its border with Ukraine and started joint naval exercises with Belarus stationing a significant Russian flotilla in the Black Sea.
The Russian move gave a red signal to western countries, NATO members as well as Ukraine and they all feared a possibility of Kremlin’s invasion on Ukraine in the near future.
Although, western intelligentsia and leaders tried to foil the Russian invasion by negotiation but all efforts went in vain as Russian preparations reached an advanced stage worsening the situation further and leading to the start of a declared war between the two on 24 February 2022.
The Western powers including the NATO countries and several countries of the world imposed strict sanctions, mostly economic in nature, on Kremlin in order to harsh it financially.
It appeared that Russia never hoped to continue the war for such a long period, still it is going on and likely to move further as all indirect and possible helps were being provided by western powers, US, NATO members and some neighbouring countries of Ukraine.
More than five months have gone with advance and retreat on Russian side and it is likely to continue for some days or till a permanent ceasefire/treaty on end of war is reached between two Russian Federation and Ukraine as well.
— The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, B N Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India.