Nebojša Popov (1939–2016)

Nebojša Popov was born in Petrovgrad (today Zrenjanin), in 1939, and has lived in Belgrade since 1958. He graduated at Law Faculty in Belgrade, and completed his PhD at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. Upon graduation, he taught at the Workers’ University “Đuro Salaj” until 1969. After that he moved to the Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade, where he taught Sociology. He openly supported the student protest of June 1968 and took part in the biggest anti-government movement in socialist Yugoslavia. After the National Assembly of Serbia passed a Lex Specialis in January 1975, Popov, along with seven other members of the Praxis group, was banned from teaching at the Faculty. In 1981 Popov was nominated acting director of the Center for Philosophy and Social Theory, an institution where the expelled teachers from the Faculty of Philosophy found new jobs as researchers. The Center later became an independent Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, where Popov worked until his retirement in 2003.

He was one of the initiators of the renewed Yugoslav Association for Sociology where he served as Director. He was the secretary of the editorial board of the journal Praxis and a member of the Governing body of the Korčula Summer School. In 1974, both Praxis and Korčula Summer School were banned by the authorities.

His life was marked by his constant social and political engagement. In high school, he joined the League of Communists, but left it in 1970, dissatisfied with the way the government treated the student press. He organized non-institutional gatherings of sociologists and philosophers on islands of Cres, Lošinj and Vis. He was one of the initiators of the so-called Free University – a series of lectures and debates organized in private apartments. He openly supported the Polish movement Solidarnost for which he was arrested and sentenced to 25 days in prison.

Popov was one of the founders of the Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative in 1989 and the President of the Republican Club. He edited an important volume Srpska strana rata (Belgrade 1996 and 2002; a critical examination of Serbia’s involvement in the war of the 1990s). He founded and edited oppositional paper Republica, from 1990 until 2010. During the war years of the 1990s he was very active in the anti-war movement. He will be remembered as an exceptional chronicler and consistent critic of the state and society, as well as the author of numerous invaluable theoretical analyses of nationalism and populism.

He passed away on April 7th 2016 in Zrenjanin.

Books: Contra fatum: (slučaj grupe profesora Filozofskog fakulteta u Beogradu: 1968-1988), 1989; Sukobi: društveni sukobi – izazov sociologiji, 1990 (first edition from 1984 was banned); Jugoslavija pod naponom promena: [dvanaest ogleda: (1968-1990)], 1990; Srpski populizam: Od marginalne do dominantne pojave, 1993; Republikanac, 1994; Iskušavanja slobode: Srbija na prelazu vekova, 2010; Kako smo dospeli dovde – Sećanje (1939 – 2015), 2015.

He received numerous awards for his work and social engagement, including the Center for Anti-War Action and South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) awards.