Book Talk – The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has emerged in the aftermath of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine as one of the most consequential figures in contemporary international politics. In The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky, Simon Shuster offers a richly nuanced account of the invasion and Zelensky’s transformation from a young comedian-turned-president to a grimly determined wartime leader.

Shuster’s biography, which is based on the author’s extensive access to the Ukrainian President and other critical sources including numerous members of his inner circle, marks a monumental contribution to our understanding not only of Zelensky, but the complex political context leading up to Russia’s invasion. Kelley Vlahos, Senior Advisor at the Quincy Institute and Editorial Director of Responsible Statecraft, and Mark Episkopos, Eurasia Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute, discussed the book with the author. 


Simon Shuster

Simon Shuster has reported from Russia and Ukraine for 17 years, most of that time as a staff writer for Time Magazine. His coverage of the war began in 2014, when he was the first foreign journalist to arrive in Crimea as Russian troops took over the peninsula. In 2019, he met and interviewed Volodymyr Zelensky for a profile of his presidential campaign, then continued covering his administration in the years that followed. When the full-scale invasion began in February 2022, Simon spent months embedded with the President’s team, securing unparalleled access to their compound in Kyiv, where he wrote "The Showman".

Mark Episkopos

Mark Episkopos is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute’s Eurasia Program. He is also an Adjunct Professor of History at Marymount University. Episkopos holds a PhD in history from American University and a masters degree in international affairs from Boston University. His research focuses on great power competition and the international system, the transatlantic relationship, Russian foreign policy, military thought and capabilities, and domestic politics, and issues in Eastern European security.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and editorial director of its online magazine, Responsible Statecraft. Previously she served as executive editor managing editor, and longtime foreign policy/national security writer at the American Conservative magazine. She also spent 15 years as an online political reporter for Fox News.