Zhelyu Mitev Zhelev was born on 3 March 1935 in the village of Vesselinovo, Shoumen region.
He is a philosophy graduate of the Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia, 1958.
Zhelev worked actively for the Komsomol and was also member of the BCP for a certain period of time.
From 1961 to 1964 he was a regular post-graduate student at the Philosophy Faculty of the Sofia University. In his dissertation thesis he attacked the foundations of Marxist philosophy and, in consequence, lost his job remaining jobless until 1972.
In 1974 he defended his thesis, and in 1975 he began work as a research associate at the Institute for Culture.
Between 1977 and 1982 he was Head of the Culture and Personality Department at this Institute.
In 1988 he defended his doctoral thesis.
Published in 1982 was his book on "Fascism", subsequently banned and stopped from circulation. Nevertheless, it has been translated into ten foreign languages.
In 1988 he created the semi-legal Club for Glasnost and Restructuring /Klub za Glasnost i Preustroistvo/, which, together with some other organizations of this kind, speeded up Todor Zhivkov's stepping down from power on 10 November 1989. Before this date Zhelyu Zhelev was one of the most widely known and prominent dissidents in Bulgaria, and was subjected to repression.
In December 1989 Zhelev took the lead of the newly formed Union of Democratic Forces and in this capacity he won a seat in the 7th Grand National Assembly /GNA/.
On 1 August 1990 he was elected president of the Republic of Bulgaria by the GNA.
In January 1992 Zhelyu Zhelev became the first Bulgarian president democratically elected in free elections. With his activity as Head of State, Zhelev is certainly to be given credit for the abolishment of totalitarianism and the establishment of democracy and market-oriented economy. Under extremely difficult and critical conditions, Zhelev succeeded in keeping civil peace in the country.
Since the summer of 1992 dissension between him and the political force that he himself had founded, and that had nominated him for president - the UDF - became increasingly serious and far-reaching. As a result, in the autumn of 1996 Zhelyu Zhelev lost the primary presidential elections held by the democratic forces. Moreover, he failed in the April 1997 parliamentary elections, in which he participated from the Liberal Alternative Party he had previously formed.
Zhelev is an individual member of the Liberal International.
In March 1998 Zhelyu Zhelev declared the forthcoming formation of a new Union of Liberal Parties designed to be a coalition of Ahmed Dogan's MRF, the New Choice Party, the Liberal Alternative and the Free Radical Liberal Party.
At the constitutive conference of the Liberal Democratic Union held on 10 June 1998 he was elected its president.
Working knowledge of French and Russian. Married, with a daughter.