Jovan Stojković (Serbian Cyrillic: Јован Стојковић; 25 December 1878 – 17 February 1920), known as Jovan Babunski (Јован Бабунски), was a Serbian Chetnik commander (Serbian: vojvoda, вoјвода) during the Balkan Wars and World War I. Following the murder of his brother and nephew by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), he joined a Chetnik band and took command of Chetnik units on the Vardar River, where he and his men often engaged Bulgarian and Ottoman forces.
With the outbreak of the First Balkan War he joined the Serbian Army and was wounded while fighting in the village of Strevica. During the Second Balkan War, he joined a Serbian volunteer detachment and fought at the Battle of Bregalnica. During World War I, Babunski and his Chetnik detachment fought Austro-Hungarian forces in the summer of 1914 and later fought on the Salonika Front, where Babunski was ordained by French General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey after he and his men captured two German midget submarines and their crews. After the war, Babunski and his 250-strong force helped Serb authorities suppress Bulgarian resistance in the Macedonian towns of Bitola and Tikveš, committing several atrocities in the process. Considered one of the most famous Chetnik commanders of his time, Babunski died in Veles in February 1920.
Jovan Stojković was born in the village of Martolci in central Macedonia along the Babuna Mountain near Veles on 25 December 1878. Some sources state that he was born in 1875. In his youth he earned the nickname "Babunski", derived from the name of Mount Babuna near which his birthplace was located. He began his education at age ten, attending what was the only Bulgarian-language elementary school in Veles at the time. It was here that his teacher Bulgarianized his name into "Ivan Stojkov". Displeased, Babunski's father responded by taking his son to the Serbian consulate in Skopje, from where he was taken to continue his education in Belgrade. After studying in Belgrade, Valjevo and Niš, Babunski worked as a Serbian-language teacher in the towns of Tetovo and Veles in the Azot region.
In 1905, Babunski's brother and nephew were killed by the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO). Seeking revenge, he joined the Chetnik band of Gligor Sokolović and Temeljko Barjaktarević. That year, he became a Chetnik vojvoda. Afterwards, he defended the right bank of the Vardar River against Bulgarian insurgents and protected persecuted Serb villages against Bulgarian and Ottoman attack. Through these actions, Babunski became one of the five leading Serbian guerilla chiefs in Macedonia. In 1907, the Chetnik song "The Serb Trumpet Plays For Me" (Serbian: Srpska mi truba zatrubi) was composed in his honour following his successful command of Chetnik forces during an attack against a group of IMRO militants commanded by Stefan Dimitrov. With the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, Ottoman authorities declared a ceasefire between their forces and those of the Chetniks. Babunski left Chetnik ranks and returned to civilian life. He was later arrested by Ottoman authorities but quickly escaped from prison. That year, he returned to the Kingdom of Serbia.
Balkan Wars and World War I
Babunski fought with the Serbian Army during the First Balkan War and was wounded in a skirmish with Ottoman Turkish forces in the village of Strevica while serving under commander Vojin Popović. During the Second Balkan War, he fought with a Serbian volunteer detachment at the Battle of Bregalnica. With the outbreak of World War I Babunski formed the Sava Chetnik detachment, which was then placed under the command of Major Vojislav Tankosić. The unit went on to fight the Austro-Hungarians in the late summer of 1914 and later destroyed a railway bridge on the Sava River to prevent Austro-Hungarian forces from crossing it. In 1915, Babunski and his men returned to Macedonia and fought Bulgarian guerillas. That autumn Babunski and his Chetniks were assigned to the town of Kačanik, where they joined other Serbian forces in fighting a Bulgarian division that they managed to hold to a standstill for nearly a month despite suffering heavy losses. With the Serbian army's retreat through Albania that winter, Babunski and his men withdrew to the Greek island of Corfu. They then joined Serb forces at the Salonika Front. Here, Babunski was assigned to the Serbian First Army and was involved in guarding Lake Prespa from the Bulgarians. Later, he and his Chetnik detachments participated in capturing enemy soldiers and gathering intelligence from the front. In 1917, French General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey awarded Babunski a medal following the capture of two German midget submarines and their crews by him and his men. Babunski was also a recipient of the Order of the Star of Karađorđe.
After the war, Babunski was given command over a force of 250 men who helped Serb authorities suppress resistance in the towns of Bitola and Tikveš. During this time, forces under his command committed several atrocities in both Macedonia and Albania. Several further atrocities were carried out in Bregalnica and Tikveš and targeted local leaders sympathetic to Bulgarian komitas. Chetnik bands, including those of Babunski, enslaved locals and turned them into forced labourers for the armed forces of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. By the summer of 1919, Serbian and Yugoslav authorities decided that Chetnik bands such as those of Babunski were not "furthering the state's aims in the region." The armed forces were then deployed to maintain order in the southern territories of the state and more than 50,000 Serbian professional soldiers were sent to Kosovo and Macedonia. Babunski died in Veles on 17 February 1920, after falling from his horse and getting influenza.
Described by historian Dušan T. Bataković as "exceptionally courageous and determined," Babunski is considered one of the most famous Chetnik commanders of his time. A monument dedicated to him was constructed in Veles in 1924, but it was blown up by the Bulgarians during World War II. A street in the Zvezdara neighborhood of Belgrade used to bear his name. His nom de guerre ("Chetnik name"), Babunski, was adopted as a surname by his descendants. Jovan is the great-grandfather of Macedonian footballer Boban Babunski, and great-great-grandfather of footballers David and Dorian.