Koča Popović

Konstantin "Koča" Popović (Serbian Cyrillic: Константин "Коча" Поповић; 14 March 1908 – 20 October 1992) was a Yugoslav politician and communist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, 1937–1939 and Divisional Commander of the First Proletarian Division of the Yugoslav Partisans. He is on occasion referred to as "the man who saved the Yugoslav Partisans", because it was he who anticipated the weakest point in the Axis lines on the ZelengoraKalinovik axis, and devised the plan for breaking through it during the Battle of Sutjeska, thus saving Tito, his headquarters and the rest of the resistance movement. After the war, he served as the Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav People's Army, before moving to the position of Foreign Minister and spent the final years of his political career as the Vice President of Yugoslavia.

Konstantin Popović
Константин Поповић
Koča Popović (1).jpg
Koča Popović as Foreign Minister
2nd Vice President of Yugoslavia
In office
14 July 1966 – 30 June 1967
PresidentJosip Broz Tito
Preceded byAleksandar Ranković
Succeeded byOffice dissolved
3rd Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia
In office
15 January 1953 – 23 April 1965
Prime MinisterJosip Broz Tito
Petar Stambolić
Preceded byEdvard Kardelj
Succeeded byMarko Nikezić
Personal details
Born(1908-03-14)14 March 1908
Belgrade, Kingdom of Serbia
Died20 October 1992(1992-10-20) (aged 84)
Belgrade, Serbia, FR Yugoslavia
Political partyLeague of Communists of Yugoslavia
Spouse(s)Veronika Vjera Bakotić
Leposava Lepa Perović
Alma materUniversity of Paris
Awards31 international and 15 Yugoslav decorations, including
Orden slobode.png Order of Freedom
Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Legion of Honour
GRE Order of George I - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of George I
Cordone di gran Croce di Gran Cordone OMRI BAR.svg Order of Merit of Italy
St Olavs Orden storkors stripe.svg Order of St. Olav
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Yugoslavia
 Spanish Republic
Branch/serviceRoyal Yugoslav Army
International Brigades
Yugoslav People's Army
Yugoslav Ground Forces emblem Yugoslav Ground Forces
Years of service1926–1927
RankColonel General
CommandsFirst Proletarian Brigade
1st Division
1st Corps
2nd Army
Chief of the General Staff
Battles/warsSpanish Civil War,
World War II

Despite being a member of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, he was a supporter of free-market reforms[1] and was also a member of a group of Serbian liberals, a prominent political movement in the 1970s, which also included Marko Nikezić and Latinka Perović. He retired in 1972, amidst pressure against his group of liberals. He spent the rest of his life in Dubrovnik and was very outspoken against the Yugoslav Wars and the regimes of Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević.

In his youth, he was one of the founding members of the Serbian Surrealist movement. He co-wrote a book with Marko Ristić. Also, Popović was among the founders of FK Partizan Belgrade, the football section of the Yugoslav Sports Association Partizan.


Popović came from a prosperous Belgrade family and spent the First World War in Switzerland.[2][1] He was also one of the thirteen signatories of the Serbian Surrealist manifesto in 1930.

In 1929, he moved to Paris to study Law and Philosophy. Here he mixed with the Left Bank world of poets, writers, artists and intellectuals.[3] He became an active Surrealist, active in both the French and Serbian Surrealist groups.[2] In 1931 Nacrt za jednu fenomenologiju iracionalnog (Outline for a Phenomenology of the Irrational) was published which he had co-written with Marko Ristić.[2]

He then became involved with the then illegal Yugoslav Communist Party. In Paris there was a center run by Comintern and headed by Tito which was used to feed volunteers from the Balkans to the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Popović was drafted through this center along with a select group of Party members. Popović fought with Spanish Republican forces and not the International Brigades, holding the rank of artillery captain. At the close of the Spanish Civil War Popović escaped through France and made his way back to Yugoslavia.[3]

World War IIEdit

Josip Broz Tito inspects 1st Proletarian Brigade. Next to him are: Ivan Ribar, Koča Popović, Filip Kljajić, Ivo Lola Ribar, Danilo Lekić and Mijalko Todorović.

In 1940, as a reserve officer in the Royal Yugoslav Army, he was mobilized and told by his Colonel to watch out for subversive activities within the regiment.

After the surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army to the German Army in April 1941, Popović organized the Kosmaj detachment during the rising in Serbia. On the formation of the First Proletarian Brigade, Popović became its commander, and subsequently commanded the First Proletarian Division.[3]

During his time leading the Partisans he encountered William Deakin, leader of the British military mission to Tito's headquarters, who wrote of Popović:

At the head of the First Proletarian Division was General Koča Popović. He had been present at our first encounter with Tito and his Staff on the morning of our arrival, but his identity was not disclosed. Taut and deliberately controlled by a sensitive and disciplined mind and power of will, Popovic was an intellectual soldier of outstanding talents, which were perhaps alien to his inner nature. [...] He was bilingual in caustic polished French, and his mental defences were impenetrable. His sarcasm was rapier-like, respectful of counter-thrusts, be he was never off his guard. [...] Popovic was a lone wolf and a solitary man, with rare unguarded moments. He had a touch of military genius and hatred of war. He was wary of friendship and defended with a devilish skill total integrity of mind and heart. [...] I was frequently in his company and grew to accept his contrived and polished sallies. Daring with cold deliberation and secret by nature, he was the idol of his troops, but few men knew him.[3]


Alongside dozens of others WW2 and Spanish Civil War veterans, Popović was among founding fathers of Partizan Belgrade football club in October 1945.[4]

After the establishment of a communist regime in Yugoslavia in 1945, he served as the Chief of the Yugoslavian General Staff from 1945-1953. In this function he also conducted negotiations with the representatives of Western powers associated with the modernisation of the JNA during the conflict with the Soviet Union (i.e., Informbiro).

Consequently, he became the foreign minister of Yugoslavia in 1953 and held this office until 1965. As the Foreign Minister, he was the head of the Yugoslav delegation to the UN General Assembly sessions on several occasions.

From 1965 until 1972 he acted as a Member of the Federal Executive Council and the Vice-President of Yugoslavia from 1966 until 1967. In 1985 he and Peko Dapčević were considered for promotion in rank General of the Army, but they both rejected the proposition.

He died in 1992 at the age of 84.


Yugoslavian decorations
  Order of Freedom
  Order of the People's Hero
  Order of the People's Liberation
  Order of the War Banner
  Order of the Yugoslav Flag
  Order of the Partisan Star
  Order of the Republic
  Order of Merits for the People
  Order of Brotherhood and Unity
  Order of Labour
  Order of Military Merits
  Order of Bravery
  Commemorative Medal of the Partisans of 1941
  Order of the Yugoslav Crown
International and foreign awards
  Order of the Falcon, (Iceland)
  Order of the White Rose of Finland, (Finland)
  Order of the Union of Burma, (Myanmar)
  Order of the Leader, (Afghanistan)
  Order of Menelik II, (Ethiopia)
  Order of the Partisan star, (Albania)
  Order of May, (Argentina)
  Order of the Southern Cross, (Brazil)
  Order of People's Freedom, (Bulgaria)
  Order of George I, (Kingdom of Greece)
  Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italy)
  Royal Order of Cambodia, (Cambodia)
  Order of the Flag of the Republic of Hungary, (Hungary)
  Order of the Aztec Eagle, (Mexico)
  Order of St. Olav, (Norway)
  Order of Suvorov, (Soviet Union)
  Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945", (Soviet Union)
  Order of the Two Niles, (Sudan)
  Order of the Republic, (Tunisia)
  Order of Orange-Nassau, (Netherlands)
  Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal, (United Kingdom)
  Legion of Honour, (France)
  Legion of Honour, (France)
  Order of the White Lion, (Czechoslovakia)
  Czechoslovak Military Order for Liberty, (Czechoslovakia)
  Czechoslovak War Cross 1939–1945, (Czechoslovakia)
  Order of Merit, (Chile)
  Order of Civil Merit, (Spain)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Čkrebić, Dušan (2012). Koča Popović, duboka ljudska tajna. Službeni glasnik.
  2. ^ a b c "Konstantin Koča Popović". Nadrealizam. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Deakin, F.W.D. (1971). The Embattled Mountain. Oxford University Press. pp. 103. ISBN 0-19-215175-4.
  4. ^ cbnostalgija (2019-05-09). "Osnivači Partizana". Crno-bela Nostalgija (in Serbian). Retrieved 2019-08-03.
  5. ^ Acović, Dragomir (2012). Slava i čast: Odlikovanja među Srbima, Srbi među odlikovanjima. Belgrade: Službeni Glasnik.
  6. ^ Гачић, Драган (2015). "Одликовања из легата историјског архива Београда". Историјски архив Београда. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Vice President of Yugoslavia
Succeeded by
Office dissolved
Preceded by Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded byas Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army of Yugoslavia Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army
(Since 1951 Yugoslav People's Army)

15 September 1945 – 27 January 1953
Succeeded by