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The Zelensky Effect, with Dr Olga Onuch and Henry Hale

How has Ukraine's president come to embody the hopes and frustrations of the country’s first ‘independence generation’?

In February 2022 Russian shells rained down on Kyiv as tanks crossed the border into Ukraine. At the time American forces prepared to evacuate President Volodymyr Zelensky for fear of his life. But Zelensky refused to abandon his country, saying ‘I need ammunition, not a ride’ and quickly became the national symbol of Ukrainian resistance. 

But how did Zelensky, once an actor who played the president on television, come to be one of the most significant wartime leaders of the twenty-first century? In December 2022 Olga Onuch and Henry Hale came to Intelligence Squared to discuss Zelensky’s life and career. From his Jewish upbringing as a native Russian speaker to his decision to go into politics as an anti-corruption and anti-establishment candidate, they explored how Ukraine’s president has come to embody the hopes and frustrations of the country’s first ‘independence generation’.


Speakers

Speakers

Dr Olga Onuch

Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Manchester


Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Manchester and former fellow at Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. She is a leading expert on Ukraine and her research focuses on protest, elections, migration and identity in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Her research regularly appears in leading media outlets including The Washington Post, The Times, The Guardian, BBC and ITV.  

Henry Hale

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University


Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and Co-Director of the Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia. He has spent extensive time conducting field research in post-Soviet Eurasia and is currently working on identity politics and political system change, with a special focus on public opinion dynamics in Russia and Ukraine. He is also chair of the editorial board of Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization.  
Chair

Carl Miller

Research Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at the think tank Demos


Research Director and co-founder of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) at the think tank Demos. He is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London and a Commissioner of Newham’s Democracy and Civic Participation Commission. He presents the BBC's flagship technology programme 'Click' and is author of The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab.