Bogdan Denić was born on August 9, 1929 in Sofia, Bulgaria. He died in Split on March 28, 2016. Denić was born into a family whose father was a Yugoslav royal diplomat and the mother was a communist activist. Since his father was a senior official in the royal government, Bogdan attended an elite college in Cairo. At the age of 16 he volunteered to join the Allied Forces and became sub-lieutenant in the New Zealand brigade of the Australian division in Italy. After the war he travelled to the United States with his father. There he studied history and became an active member in student leftist organizations. Denić later came to be one of the founders and a long-time leader of the Democratic Socialists of America along with the charismatic Michael Harrington. He was the organisation’s honorary president for life and represented it at the Socialist International. Spurred on by his leftist activism, Denić abandoned his studies in New York and went into the automobile industry where he worked as a qualified toolmaker and became a union leader.
Denić actively participated in the fight for the rights of African Americans and was imprisoned countless times. In the course of this fight he met Martin Luther King. His political and union-related work brought him to the town of Berkley where he returned to his studies at the famous university. He soon obtained two Ph.D.’s, one from the Columbia University and another from the Paris-Sorbonne University. He first became a researcher at the Columbia University, then a lecturer at the New York University and the City University of New York. He ended his working career as a professor emeritus at the doctoral studies teaching political sociology at the City University of New York. For over three decades Bogdan Denić was a director and the ‘driving force’ of the Socialist Scholars Conference, the largest gathering of leftist intelligentsia in the United States, in which all significant leftist intellectuals from all over the world took part.
He returned to these parts in the early sixties. Apart from his wish to reconnect with his mother Ruža Dunđerski, who at that time lived with her husband in Rijeka, he devoted himself to sociological research. Significant research about Yugoslav elites became one of his first works published on the topic of sociology of socialist societies and on Yugoslavia. He went on to publish seventeen more books in this field and became a significant and influential scientific authority. His last book, “Ethnic Nationalism: Tragic Death of Yugoslavia” soon became one of the most relevant publications about the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
Denić left his political and intellectual mark in the former Yugoslavia mostly during the 1990s: he participated in the work of the Association for Yugoslav Democratic Initiative, was one of the founders of the League of Croatian Social Democrats and then of the Social Democratic Union and the Action of Social Democrats of Croatia.
In Zagreb and in Belgrade he simultaneously started one of the first non-governmental organisations, The Association for Research of Transition Towards Democracy. The association is still remembered among anti-nationalist activists – especially those who had been young at the time – for the Summer School of Democracy, which against all odds managed to gather activists and lecturers from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Albania, Poland and the Czech Republic. In the second half of the 1990s, with the help from international donors, the Association initiated the creation of a network of lawyers who dealt primarily with the issues of return and restitution of property to the Serbs who had fled Croatia during and after the operation Storm.