Zalman Shazar was born in the Belorussian town of Mir as Shneur Zalman Rubashov, a hasidic Habad family. Following a religious education, he became active in the Po'alei Zion movement, organizing Jewish selfdefense units during the 1905 revolution.
Shazar was a member of the Jewish Agency delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1947.
Elected to the First Knesset, he became Israel's first Minister of Education and Culture (1949-1951). Continuing as a member of Knesset, he became a member of the Jewish Agency Executive (1952), and from 1956 to 1960 was acting chairman of the Agency's Jerusalem Executive.
Shazar's literary work took many forms, from poetry and autobiographical fiction to scholarly treatises and published articles, in both Hebrew and Yiddish.