2017 Rectorial profiles: Srdja Popovic

Photo: Srdja Popovic

Where are you from? Belgrade, Serbia

Occupations Executive Director of the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, political activist, author, leader of Ecotopia fund

Teaching: Along with leading workshops and lectures at forums and at universities, Popovic has lectured at Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, and Johns Hopkins University, among others. He has also collaborated with Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts to host student-interns and lead them in nonviolence workshops, all through the university’s co-op program.

Education Biology at the University of Belgrade

Family Both of Popović’s parents worked in the television industry in Belgrade; Popovic’s father was a known television reporter, and his mother was a news anchor on state television. Srdja married Maša Stanisavljević in 2012.

When he was your age While studying at the University of Belgrade, Srdja Popovic played bass guitar in Bal, a goth rock band that went on to produce one album, Između božanstva i ništavila, in 1993.

History Popovic led the Serbian democratic movement “Otpor!”, which successfully overthrew Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosovic, evolved Serbia into a democracy, and aided the decline of Balkan conflict. At 20, Srdja became the president of Demokratska omladina, the youth wing of the Serbian Democratic Party. After Milosevic was overthrown, Popovic became a member of the National Assembly of Serbia, in which he held an office for three years, and acted as the environmental adviser for the Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Dindic. Popovic also co-wrote the 2015 novel Blueprint for Revolution with Matthew Miller, written as a guide for changing the world. The novel was nominated for Atlantic Magazine’s “Book of the Month” and was praised by critics. Arguably his most well-known endeavor, Popovic and Slobodan Dinovic, a former member of Otpor!, co-founded CANVAS, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies, with a focus towards utilising nonviolent resistance to advance human rights and democracy.

What is he doing now Popovic actively works with CANVAS, which currently functions around the globe, especially in Syria and Sudan; he is also tackling civic empowerment initiatives in Egypt, Somaliland, and Tunisia. Throughout 2017, Srdja has participated in forums and discussions, often organised by the Human Rights Foundation, continuously working to find solutions to the rise of illiberalism in the West.

Honors and awards Named one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine in 2011, listed as one of “50 people who will change the world” by The Wired in 2012, honored as a Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum in 2013, awarded the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award in 2016 (in conjunction with CANVAS) by Tufts University, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

Why do you do what you do? Because I believe that even the smallest person can change the destiny of the world, and when you work with students and activists to empower them it’s the most satisfying job on the planet (however underpaid).

Who inspires you? I’m inspired by people who don’t mind taking a risk for a positive change. As an honorary St Andrews PhD, Benjamin Franklin once said there are only three types of people-those unmovable, those moveable and those that move. Helping and educating “movers” is thus the best way of making the world a better place.

What do you do in your spare time? There is no such thing as spare time when you’re a working father of two small kids, but when I grab some I either fish or play 12 string guitar.

What attribute that you have makes you suited to be Rector? I’ve spent my life training young people and students how to empower themselves through social movements. St Andrews needs a student movement to push for radical change, not just a new Rector. Meeting students here in the last 48 hours has made me see tremendous human potential for this.


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