April 08, 2016
AN IMMORTAL ICEBREAKER
Yet another irreplaceable loss. One more of the best among us is gone... They say Nebojša Popov died yesterday. And last night, before he left for the hospital, he asked his friends his last question: "So, should we be going to the printing press or the doctor?"
He intended to revive Republika, his journal against fear, hatred and violence, his periodical for civil self-liberation, as he called it when he started it in Belgrade in the middle of the wars on the Balkans in 1993. He didn't make it to the press. His sensitive and gentle heart refused to obey the steel discipline of his soul that had placed him in the company of the select few, who could be counted on the fingers of one hand, who had consistently sustained a moral position in the South Slavic lands. Last night he sailed off to new seas and new oceans to find respite from the human evil and primitivism he was so precise at detecting, recognizing, describing, and explaining.
When I filmed the documentary about Nebojša in 2012, a friend from his school years, Zdravko Đukić, said: "I've been studying him for seventy years now. He has probably seen to my core by now. I haven not done the same for him. He's someone who can't be described with a single story."
No matter how much I write about Nebojša Popov, all this is merely one part of the story about him, because he is someone who cannot be described with a single story.
Nebojša Popov was born in 1939 in Zrenjanin. He earned his degree at the Faculty of Law, Belgrade University, and received his doctorate from the Faculty of Philosophy, Zagreb University.
A member of the Praxis group in Zagreb and of the Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative, Popov was been one of the foremost fighters for human rights and labor rights and one of the preeminent sociologists, a founder of Republika and for many years its editor. Republika is a „periodical for civil self-liberation – against fear, hatred and violence.“ For his journalism he received a number of prestigious awards, such as the Dušan Bogavac award for ethical action and courage, the SEEMO Journalism award, conferred by the South East Europe Media Organization. He was declared a “knight of the profession.” Popov is also the recipient of the Konstantin Obradović award for advancing the culture of human rights, awarded by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights. He is author of several books including Contra fatum, Srpska strana rata [The Serbian Side of the War], Iskušavanje slobode [Testing Freedom]...
The Duško Kondor Award for Civil Courage was given to Nebojša Popov because, although fully cognizant of the risk he was undertaking, he demonstrated civil courage by the following:
• He worked tirelessly on democratizing the societies where he lived – first in socialist Yugoslav society, then in nationalist Serbian society.
• In Yugoslavia he was secretary to the editorial board of the Praxis group. Those who were affiliated with Praxis were thought to be dissidents. Their objective was to encourage critical discourse about Yugoslav socialism in order to advance it.
• For many years he was a member of the administrative board of the Korčula Summer School. This was a gathering place for free philosophical thought. It was banned in the mid-Seventies.
• He was one of the founders of the Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative, the first independent political association in Yugoslavia. Its goal was to find a peaceful solution for the Yugoslav crisis.
• During the siege of Sarajevo he founded a citizen's group called: To Live in Sarajevo, which organized protests against the attacks on Sarajevo and took part in organizing various forms of aid to the people of Sarajevo. As part of the activity of the group he organized and led the first Belgrade anti-war group to visit besieged Sarajevo.
• He organized a series of actions, discussions and round tables calling for an end to the war.
• In the middle of the Balkan wars he supported and was involved in women's movements for independent organizing and gender equality.
• He stood up in defense of the right to the freedom of opinion including the views of those whose politics he did not share.
• With his activities he marked almost a half century of fighting for freedom, democracy, human rights, and labor rights.
Nebojša Popov will never die. He will always remain an immortal icebreaker.