How Much Do You Know About World Leaders?


By: Zoe Samuel

7 Min Quiz

Image: Italian G7 Presidency 2017 via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

Civilization does not just happen. It is the result of the efforts of thousands of people around the world working in governments to ensure that the staples of civilization are available: food, water, health, and comfort. Becoming the leader of a nation takes decades of experience, or moments of nepotism, or billions of dollars, or an army of rabid, well-armed followers. National leaders around the world come from humble beginnings as the sons of former dictators, or sons of former presidents, or local community organizers, to rise in the ranks of their parties, using social skills, brilliant policies, and/or bloodthirsty militias until one day, they can lay claim to the title of head of state.

Just because one doesn't know about world leaders does not make one safe from their actions. It could be argued that world leaders who stay away from the spotlight are potentially the most capable of having unseen influence. Of course, even the famous world leaders we think we know so well may have more to them than meets the eye. Western governments are just as prone to presidential myth-making as eastern ones, even if individual nations bestow upon their head of state the title of "Dear Leader." Do you have "Commons" knowledge? Can you parlay your parliamentary savvy into points? Are facts about world leaders part of your political "Diet"? Put your knowledge to the test with this quiz!

Which of these world leaders is 5 feet and 7 inches tall?

Vladimir V. Putin, who has likened homosexuality to Satan worship and frequently seeks opportunities to show his bare chest, or be seen wrestling with soldiers, is a diminutive 5 feet, 7 inches. This is exactly the same height as Napoleon Bonaparte. President Putin is the leader of Russia.


Which world leader got their start as an expert in political theory?

President Nguyễn Phú Trọng of Vietnam was educated in philology in Vietnam before earning the Soviet equivalent of a doctorate in political science, in Russia. Being a rigorously trained academic, it is no surprise that his start in politics was a political theorist for the Communist Party of Vietnam.


Who was President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan preceded by in that office?

President Mayardit is the first President of South Sudan, and has been in office since 2011. He was an important figure in the Sudanese Civil War that resulted in the country splitting in two.


Not every politician appreciates their nicknames. Can you say which politician is nicknamed "The Punisher"?

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has been in politics for a very long time, having served 22 years as a mayor before running for president. One reason for his popularity is his hard-line approach to crime in general, and drug-related crimes in particular, advocating for extra-judicial vigilante killings of drug dealers and users, motivating Time Magazine to dub him "The Punisher," a nickname he loves.


Can you guess the profession of the father of Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran?

Unsurprisingly, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, a theocrat, comes from a family whose profession has been, for centuries, religious scholarship. Before becoming Ayatollah in 1989, the provenance of the Iranian religious regime, helmed by the Ayatollahs, lead to the line in "Mad Max 2" when Lord Humungus is referred to as "Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla."


At school, one rubs elbows with men and women who may really go places. Which world leader went to an elite boarding school at the same time as actor Hugh Grant?

Separated by a paltry four years, British PM, Boris Johnson, was a student at Eton College, which means he would have been a student there at the same time as a young Hugh Grant. Eton College has produced 24 British Prime Ministers.


Can you recall which of the following world leaders married their schoolteacher?

French President Emmanuel Macron came into politics as a technocratic outsider, interested in enacting policy, not politics. In his early 40s, good looking and wealthy, Macron is married to his former schoolteacher, Brigitte Macron, whom he met when she was married to her ex-husband and had three children.


All people are dust in the wind. Do you know which of the following world leaders nearly never existed, because their father nearly died on a suicide mission?

Japanese PM Shinzō Abe's father, Shintaro Abe, volunteered to be a "kamikaze" pilot during the Second World War, but the war ended before Shintaro was ready to fly. Shinzō Abe's ancestors have a fascinating past spanning both high and low points in Japanese history, including his great-great-grandfather General Ōshima Yoshimasa, whose family had been samurai before the Meiji Restoration.


This world leader got their start protecting a man who published a book deemed officially secret by the British government. Who is it?

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull is best known for his recent party squabbles in the 2018 leadership spill, but once upon a time, he was a lawyer for the publisher of "Spycatcher," a book by former MI-5 counterintelligence officer Peter Wright. The book, which contains passages about the hunt for KGB agents within the British government, resulted in a lawsuit against the publisher by MI-5. Turnbull argued effectively for the publisher.


Politics don't always travel well. Which of the following world leaders would be well received by their natural political allies in the U.S., until the Americans heard all of their views?

A strong environmentalist, the youngest Prime Minister of Denmark, engaged to a celebrated film director and veteran of a public spat with President Trump over his desire to buy Greenland, Mette Frederiksen seems like the sort of figure who would be embraced by a certain section of American politics. Of course, having immigration policies that are functionally the same as those of President Trump would not win her any permanent friends in her natural political niche in the U.S.


Which of the following world leaders is a member of a party abbreviated as CDU?

Angela Merkel, whose first national office as a cabinet minister for women and youth was under PM Helmut Kohl's regime, is a member of the CDU, which stands for the Christian Democratic Union. Considered a relatively conservative party by German standards, the CDU would be seen as outright leftist in America.


Who is Kim Kielsen?

Despite having a relationship with Denmark similar to the relationship between the UK and Bermuda, Greenland is its own country with its own parliament. The PM of Greenland, Kim Kielsen, is perhaps best known for mocking the recent American bid to purchase Greenland from Denmark, which does not own it.


Which profession did Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad dream of entering, before his turn in politics?

Before Bashar al-Assad followed in the footsteps of his father, Hafez "Hama Massacre" al-Assad, who killed tens of thousands of his own people after seizing power in a military coup, the younger Assad dreamed of being a physician. Many Syrians probably wish he had followed that dream, rather than perpetuating his family's bloody reign.


PM Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand graduated from university in 2001. In what subject was her degree?

When PM Ardern refused to name the mass shooter in Christchurch, she was likely drawing upon her expert knowledge of communications, as a major in Communication Studies while at university. Having worked her way through the political ranks, she was once an aide to the second female PM in the history of New Zealand.


What profession did Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga have before entering politics?

President Khaltmaagiin Battulga's father was a famous wrestling coach, and Khaltmaagiin followed in his footsteps, allowing him to see the world and learn Sambo and Judo. While abroad, he founded a successful international trading business he named Genco, after the first consigliere of the Corleone family in "The Godfather."


What title is held by Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus?

When someone is president long enough, one has to suspect something is wrong. President Alexander Lukashenko has been President of Belarus since 1994. In 1996, when he was going to be impeached for violating the constitution, he had it amended by referendum. When he reached his term limit, he held a referendum to eliminate them. Lukashenko, who has dim views of gays and Jews, has been given awards by Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Libya.


Of what has Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claimed he is incapable?

President Bolsonaro has proven himself a capable man. He has shown he is, despite describing himself as a religious Catholic, divorcing repeatedly. He has proven himself a strong backer of the Brazilian firearms industry, which includes popular handgun maker Taurus. He has changed his political party several times. He draws the line, he says, at loving a gay son of his own.


PM Narendra Modi of India is suspected of playing a role in something big in 2002. What was it?

PM Narendra Modi is a hard-line Hindu nationalist whose activities in reaction to the 2002 attack on a train of Hindus in Gujarat by Muslims are believed to have resulted in the riots that killed about a thousand people, mostly Muslims. PM Modi was married at 13 through an arranged marriage but did not live with his wife until they were 18, and soon, the future PM abandoned the marriage.


Which of the following world leaders is part of a political dynasty?

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is the son of 16-year former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, whose time as Prime Minister coincided with his son's upbringing. Pierre Trudeau's father, Justin's grandfather, saw that Pierre benefited from an excellent education, one that took him to the heights of power. Pierre Trudeau benefited similarly from his father and spent some time as a schoolteacher before entering politics.


In which of the following ways does President Idriss Déby distinguish himself?

Idriss Déby is estimated to be worth $50 million. In 2006, Forbes Magazine named Chad the most at the "top" of the world's "most corrupt nations," citing how World Bank funds intended to build a pipeline to feed the starving people of Chad were diverted to support Déby's regime.


For what reason was Barham Salih arrested in 1979?

A Kurd, President Barham Salih of Iraq was arrested twice in 1979 because the government accused him of being part of a Kurdish nationalist group for having photographed government protesters, spending more than a month in jail, where he was tortured. All this before he even graduated from high school.


President Sebastián Piñera has a doctorate. Where did he earn it?

An undergraduate alumnus of the Catholic University of Chile, President Sebastián Piñera earned a doctorate in economics from Harvard University. His upbringing was distinctly global, spending much of his childhood in the US and Belgium, following the career of his father, a civil servant.


What does Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's nickname refer to?

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's nickname is Farmajo, a corruption of "formaggio," the Italian word for cheese, which he famously loves. Why Italian? Somalia was once an Italian colony and has vestiges of Italian language of culture present. On the subject of Somalia, according to "Trading Economics" rating of corrupt nations, Somalia rates number 180 out of 180 corrupt nations, the US being number 22 and Russia being number 138.


Many world leaders are the product of elite boarding schools. Which one went to Lancing College?

President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana is the product of a powerful family with deep roots in politics in Ghana, one that paid for him to attend high school in the UK, at Lancing College, a boarding school in Sussex. Following graduation, he attended New College at Oxford briefly before several other universities, ultimately getting his law credentials through The Inns of Court in London.


Kim Jong-Un is the wacky, terrifying dictator of North Korea. Which of the following facts about him is false?

Kim Jong-Un is as mysterious and unpredictable as he is predictably mysterious. Stories about his eccentric behavior abound, some verifiable, some less so. One story run by "The Daily Mail" reads like an "Onion" story: Kim Jong-Un was alleged to have plastic surgery to make him look more like his grandfather.


What year did Michael Higgins take office in Ireland?

Michael Higgins, who was elected as the ninth President of Ireland in 2011, has been involved in politics since the early 1980s and was a Labour Party leader before his presidency. President Higgins has thus far used his time in office to address the old wounds in society, promoting social justice.


Sports can endear a politician to their constituents. Which world leader was the president of their country's football association?

President Sauli Niinistö of Finland made several attempts at winning the Presidency of Finland before succeeding, making him the first conservative to do so since the 1950s. In the interim, from the end of 2009 until his inauguration as President, he was the President of the Finnish Football Association.


PM Mark Rutte of The Netherlands is as straightforward as he is Dutch. Which of the following statements about him is untrue?

The Netherlands is an unusual place with an unusual government. PM Mark Rutte is unmarried, which is uncommon among most world leaders, and he does, in fact, like to teach one day a week, uses an old fashioned Nokia with buttons, and has interrupted President Trump to contradict him.


Do you know which of the following politicians' parties draws its name from the heavens?

PM Giuseppe Conte's anti-establishment party, the Five Star Movement, came about as a reaction to the rampantly corrupt and feckless Italian governments of the past. Founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, this populist movement's name is derived from five key, related issues: environmentalism, sustainable transportation, sustainable development, public water, and a right to internet access.


Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez had some cool jobs, but one stands apart. Do you know what that job was?

PM Pedro Sánchez is nothing if not on a roll. After earning degrees from several venerable European learning institutions, he worked variously for the UN and the European Parliament. After stints as a mayor and a party leader, he became PM after the other major political party suffered a major scandal. He has opposed the separatist movement in Catalonia his whole career.


On what policy is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, President of Mexico, noted for touting in his run for office?

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, made two runs at the Presidency of Mexico before being elected, having left his old party altogether. The platform he ran on in 2018 was heavy or rhetoric and light on specifics, even among Obrador's own staff. As a result, voters could see in him what they wanted to see, which was clever.


Who received their law degree in 1987?

Viktor Orbán, who was Prime Minister of Hungary from 1998 to 2002 and again from 2010 until the present, earned his law degree in 1987 and began his career in a European research group sponsored by The Soros Foundation, a group that now decries Orbán as anti-democratic.


To what party does Moroccan PM Saadeddine Othmani belong?

Moroccan PM Saadeddine Othmani has positioned himself as a reformer, saying he wants to model his Lamp Party on the Christian Democratic Union party in Germany, of which PM Merkel is a member. In a very cool turn of history, he earned his degree in Casablanca.


Politicians must endure all manner of indignities at the hands of the public. Who chafes when they are compared with Winnie the Pooh?

China's President Xi Jinping has profound power in China, having extended his tenure by changing the Communist Party rules to allow him to serve more than two terms as President. His nation has no Bill of Rights to speak of, meaning the President has nearly limitless power. That said, President Xi is very sensitive about comparisons between his looks and those of Winnie the Pooh, even banning mentions of the bear from the internet.


In what subject does President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov have a degree?

Winner of the 2017 Kyrgyzstan presidential contest, Sooronbay Jeenbekov's education was a product of the Soviet Union and its priorities, combined with the practical needs of Kyrgyzstan. He earned two degrees, one in "zoological engineering" and one in accounting. Mom and dad must be very proud.


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