Djindjic was born in Bosnia and took an interest in politics while a student at the University of Belgrade. A pro-reform socialist, Djindjic was imprisoned for several months after he and other students from Croatia and Slovenia tried to establish a non-communist student organisation. Released from jail, he continued his studies in Germany under Jürgen Habermas in Frankfurt. In 1979 he obtained a PhD in philosophy from the university of Konstanz.
In 1989 Djindjic returned to Yugoslavia to take up a teaching post at Novi Sad University, and together with other Serb dissidents founded the Democratic Party. He became Chairman of the Executive Board of the party in 1990, and was elected to the Serb Parliament in the same year. After a massive series of public protests about rigged elections, Djindjic became Mayor of Belgrade in 1996 - the first non-communist mayor to hold that post since the Second World War.
He played a prominent role in the Yugoslav Presidential elections of September 2000 and in the October uprising that overthrew the Milosevic regime, and then led the broad-based 18-party Democratic Opposition of Serbia coalition to an overwhelming victory at the Serbian elections of December 2000. He became Prime Minister of Serbia in January 2001. He played a key role in sending Milosevic to the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
He was assassinated in Belgrade on March 12, 2003, shot once in the chest and once in the stomach. According to the Serbian government, he was not conscious and did not have a pulse upon arriving at the emergency ward. He had made many enemies for his pro-Western stance, reformist policies which had seen unemployment rise to over 30%, for arresting Milosevic, for relinquishing Milosevic to The Hague, and for clamping down on organized crime. Milorad Lukovic Legija, an ex-Commander of the special police has been suspected to be behind the assassination. He is connected with the powerful Zemun clan of Serbian mafia, blamed for the killing.
Natasa Micic, acting president of Serbia, declared a state of emergency immediately following the shooting. Zoran Živković was elected by the Serbian Democratic Party as Djindjic's successor.