His Name Was Popov, Dusko Popov
By | October 6, 2019
James Bond, the protagonist and titular character of Ian Fleming’s popular spy series, is possibly the most well-known fictional spy in existence. However, a closer look at a former acquaintance of Ian Fleming suggests that not all of 007’s adventures were fictional. In fact, the character of James Bond may well have been inspired by a Yugoslavian double agent by the name of Dusko Popov.
Popov was born in 1912 on the Balkan Peninsula in present-day Serbia. Due to the affluence of his family, he enjoyed yachting trips and being attended to by family servants during his early years. The family’s wealth also allowed him to be educated at the best schools in Europe where he learned several languages, including Italian, French, and German. He obtained a law degree from the University of Belgrade before moving to Germany to pursue a doctorate. There he met and became friends with Johann Jebsen.
Jebsen and Popov both came from wealthy backgrounds and therefore had expensive tastes, particularly with regards to cars and women. While Popov lacked the brooding good looks of Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan, his charisma, and most likely his wealth, made him something of a ladies’ man. Nazis had recently taken control of Germany and Popov was quite vocal in his opposition to them. As a result, in 1937, he spent eight days in Freiburg Prison, having been arrested by the Gestapo. Jebsen contacted Popov’s father, who managed to free him and put him on a train to Switzerland. This left Popov’s indebted to Jebsen and the repayment of that debt would lead to Popov becoming a spy.