The thesis explores hero-making in contemporary Croatian society by analyzing the heroization of three national hero figures: first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, Croatian army commander Ante Gotovina and popular singer Marko Perković Thompson. Hero-making is analyzed in the context of contemporary cultures of memory within which heroes work as figures of memory – concretizations of different notions of the recent national past (war of independence and forming of the state in the 1990s) and present contestations related to it. Following the conception of the hero as a socio-cultural construct and political phenomenon, the thesis focuses on the interconnectedness of hero-making processes, the construction of social memory and the building of the political community. The thesis introduces a conceptual model of the hero that enables identifying hero figures in different contexts, even when they are not explicitly defined as such, based on the five key characteristics: 1) exceptionality, 2) agonality, 3) high degree of agency, 4) autonomy and transgressiveness and 5) ethical and affective charge (Schlechtriemen 2019). It emphasizes ambivalence and contradiction as the main characteristics of contemporary heroes, and the tensions between different, often conflicting meanings as an integral part of the processes of hero-making. Hero is defined as an ambiguous, contradictory, and processual social and political phenomenon, while hero-making is approached as a complex, contested and openended process of social and political construction of the hero, in which meanings of heroism are continuously reinterpreted and negotiated. The thesis focuses on the hero as a political phenomenon in the context of the building of political community, and it approaches heromaking as a result of negotiations between the heroized individual, political goals of the political community and the (political) memories of its members (Kitchen 2019). The three heroes are chosen as the most prominent figures in contemporary cultures of memory in Croatia. Their heroic status stems from their involvement in the war of independence, which in the official state narrative has the status of “the founding myth” – a historical event by which the political community was established. The basis for their heroic status was set in the wartime context, in which they gained prominence as public figures and prominent war actors: Tuđman as a political leader, war president and chief military commander, Gotovina as a celebrated warrior and commander who led numerous successful military campaigns, the most important being the final war victory, and Thompson as an army volunteer who became famous on the front, not for his warrior exploits, but for his most famous war song. Within the post-war social and political processes in Croatian society, they undoubtedly became figures of memory, embodying various notions and images of the recent past, as well as disputes, divisions and conflicts related to them. Because of their different positions and different actions, they symbolize the national past in different ways. Therefore, they are approached as three different heroic types: Tuđman as a historical hero, i.e. the „great man“, Gotovina as an exemplary warrior hero, and Thompson as a hybrid celebrity-hero figure. The thesis explores different phases of heroization of the three heroes since the 1990s, but emphasizes the contemporary processes, in the period from 2015 to 2022, when the research was conducted. The research was based on the analysis of political discourse and various media and popular cultural forms and the ethnographic study of public commemorative events. The discourse analysis focused on production of official heroic narratives, political usages of the heroes and and on the representations, negotiations and contestations of hero figures and hero narratives through different medial forms. The ethnographic study focused on heroization within specific practices of memory. It encompassed several public events that commemorate events from national history in which heroes had a prominent role or events related to heroes themselves (national holiday celebrations, commemorations, concert performances and film festivals), focusing on the narratives and practices of the individuals who participate in these events, and their various interpretations and appropriations of heroes. The thesis starts with a theoretical-historical overview of conceptual approaches to heroes and heroism and it outlines the key directions in the research since the 19th century. It focuses on conceptions of the hero as a historical actor and heroism in history, the hero as a narrative phenomenon and the construction of hero narratives, the conception of the hero as a popular cultural phenomenon in relation to contemporary celebrities, and conceptions of war heroism with an emphasis on the gendered construction of the war hero as an ideal of masculinity. It shows that in contemporary socio-cultural contexts hero-making draws on various historical heroic models and actualizes different narrative traditions, as well as that different conceptualizations of heroism in contemporary societies are interrelated and overlapping, therefore blurring clear boundaries between different types of prominent individuals. The next chapter deals with ethnographic methodological approaches to hero-making. It addresses difficulties of the “ethnographic capturing“ of the elusive, continuously transforming hero manifestations and it sets ground for an approach based on selecting the „fragments of heroization“ – specific manifestations of the hero in their concrete contexts – approaching them as ethnographies of the particular. The second part of the chapter deals with epistemological and ethical issues arising from the phenomenologically based fieldwork with the unlikable political Other, i.e. the community that has been through various stereotyping strategies constructed as an uncultured nationalist Other (Jansen 2005) within the Croatian society. Reflecting on different ways of suspending the researcher’s political emotions (Hage 2009), it addresses specific ethical dillemas and challenges, as well as ambivalences and complexities of the ethnographic engagement with the unlikable political Other. The following three chapters present the case studies and explore the specific mechanisms and practices of hero-making, following the conception of the three national heroes as three different heroic types: Franjo Tuđman as a historical hero (great man), Ante Gotovina as a warrior hero and Marko Perković Thompson as celebrity-hero. The chapter on Franjo Tuđman as a historical hero analyzes how the political figure of the first Croatian president is constructed as a „great man in history“. It describes the construction of Tuđman's heroic status in the 1990s, during his lifetime, focusing on the context of sociopolitical crisis as the framework for the construction of the charismatic heroic leader. The second part presents an analysis of the political discourse after Tuđman's death, exploring how political actors from different political and ideological positions evoke, (re)interpret and appropriate the heroic figure and his political legacy in an effort to make him part of their own political capital. Finally, the chapter presents two case studies – Tuđman's monuments Knin and Zagreb – which are analyzed as the manifestations of political canonization, the process of transposing the hero figure from communicative memory into cultural memory, that aims to establish the heroic name and figure as canonical political symbols. The analysis shows that the heroization of Franjo Tuđman in Croatian society, based on the actualization of the concept of the "hero of history", relies on discourses of the historical and legal continuity of Croatian statehood, in which Tuđman is portrayed as a contemporary great man who achieved a historical goal in the form of state independence. A hero as the great man is constructed primarily in the sphere of politics of memory. The polarization surrounding the first Croatian president, which marked the period of his rule as well as the first years after his death, in the political discourse was being gradually suspended and an official narrative is established in which Tuđman's role in Croatian history is interpreted through the prism of his merits for the war victory and the achievement of independence, while the problematic aspects of his politics and his rule are unspoken of or relativized. This official narrative is presented as the public consensus, which shows a tendency of imposing the official heroic narrative as the only valid one. The two case studies – monuments in Knin and Zagreb – show that the basic mechanism of Tuđman's heroization in contemporary society is political canonization, a process by which a figure belonging to communicative memory is transposed into cultural memory, in an effort to establish the heroic name and heroic figure as canonical political symbols, to be permanently inscribed in the national memory. Monuments in two symbolically prominent places canonize two faces of heroes and two narratives of the origin of the political community. The Knin monument canonizes the heroic figure of the victorious war leader and the narrative of the war victory as the foundation of the political community. Its localization at the Knin fortress is related to a specific historical episode that took place there, so the monument as the embodiment of the hero in that context re-enacts the past, and fixates the related victorious imagery, making it a permanent part of the present. The Zagreb monument does not actualize specific local meanings, but the goal of the symbolic placement of the monument in the Croatia's capital is to establish a nationally binding interpretation of the heroic role in history. The Zagreb monument canonizes the narrative of Tuđman as a great man and hero of history – the founder of the state. His monument in Zagreb does not embody a specific historical episode, but the socio-political order itself. The ethographic research showed that canonization generates various, often conflicting, narratives about Tuđman. The tensions and ruptures that arise between the official discourse on Tuđman and the narratives and practices "from below" that express resistance to canonization show that the canonical construction of heroism is unstable, and that the heroic figure still dominantly belongs to the communicative memory. The chapter on Ante Gotovina as the warrior hero presents a brief account of the construction of Gotovina's heroic status since the Hague indictment in 2001 until the acquittal in 2012, with an emphasis on the heroization of transgression and heroic ambivalence as a constitutive element of Gotovina's heroism during the trial. In the second part, various heroization mechanisms and practices after his acquittal are analyzed, showing how the acquittal, which was seen in Croatian society as an official confirmation of Gotovina's heroism, opened up space for transformations of heroism and new uses of the heroic figure. In the last part of the chapter a case study is presented – the movie General – a fictionalization of the heroic biography which is analyzed as a media of memory, focusing on how the hero and the hero narrative are constructed in the process of production and in the film itself, and how they are interpreted in the process of reception within the community of memory. The analysis of heroization mechanisms and practices in the example of Gotovina shows how a contemporary, living hero is constructed, with an emphasis on how the meanings of heroism, hero narratives, and the roles of the hero are shaped and negotiated in the interaction between the heroized individual, political actors and the wider political community. There are two key mechanisms of heroization in Gotovina's case: the establishment of heroic distance and the popularization of the war hero, i.e. wide diffusion of heroic images and hero narratives in commemorative contexts, in everyday political and media discourse and in popular cultural forms. Heroic distance is the mechanism by which Gotovina, as a heroized individual, establishes autonomy in relation to the heroic transgressiveness that was attributed to him in his absence, and by confirming his military ethos he reaffirms the institutional order of the political community. Within the official political discourse his heroism is "institutionalizatized" – it is ceremoniously confirmed by the state and a new official hero narrative is constructed around it, which is written into the historical narrative of the establishment of the political community. The hero is also appropriated in the practices of various individual political actors through the mechanisms of political familiarization as a potent and desirable political capital. Heroic distance, on the other hand, places the hero outside and above the everyday, therefore his every appearance is constructed as an extraordinary event that generates intense interest from the community in an effort to bridge the distance. In everyday media discourse, the hero is transformed into a role model for the political community through various popularization mechanisms. The already established heroism is confirmed by newly constructed hero narratives. His actions and different aspect of his life are discursively transformed into another heroic endeavor that contributes to the wellbeing of the political community. He becomes a role model for the desirable attitude towards the wartime past, but also a model for understanding the post-war present, as well as an ideal of action for the future of the community. The values that he emphasizes in his rare public appearances are promoted as values that the entire community should strive for. Efforts to bridge the heroic distance are also reflected in the increased public interest in his private life, in which the mechanisms of celebrification are noticeable. The main focus of the interest for the hero's private life is his romantic history, in which he is constructed as the embodiment of the ideal of masculinity in relation to the figure of the wife as the exemplary female Other of the warrior hero. The analysis of the movie General, a fictionalization of a heroic biography that was conceived as a medium of memory that intended to fixate and perpetuate the official hero narrative of the state, showed that the construction of a living hero still belongs to the sphere of communicative memory, biographical memories and lived experiences of the members of the political community. In the process of reception, the heroic biography was interpreted as an inauthentic representation of the common past, and instead of unification of the community around the hero, it generated controversies, disputes and conflicting interpretations of the past. The chapter on Marko Perković Thompson as the celebrity-hero focuses on the hibridity of this specific hero figure. It focuses on the key elements of Thompson's atypicality as a popular music "phenomenon", considering them through a heroic prism. The analysis focuses on two key aspects – transgression, which is analyzed as one of the constitutive features of heroism, closely related to heroic exceptionality, and the hero cult within the context of practises of memory, structured around questions of collective identity. The first part of the chapter shows how Thompson's celebrity image has been constructed around the perception of authenticity since the 1990s, that set basis for the later heroization. The second part focuses on the specific political transgression and polarized social response it generated as the turning point in transforming of the celebrity into the hero. The third part presents a case study – the celebration of the national holiday (Victory Day) organized by Thompson as an act of rebellion to the official politics, on the basis of which he was attributed the heroic role of a rebel and leader of the people's resistance. The analysis of the hibridity of the celebrity-hero showed that the most important difference between Thompson and the usual celebrities is that he represents a specific political community. Understanding the Thompson "phenomenon" and its social and political resonance is only possible by approaching him as a symbol or model of identification for a certain political community. The construction of such a figure is based on the percieved authenticity of his public persona, mainly deriving form his wartime heroism and veteran identity, which legitimizes his role of the „voice of the people“, i.e. speaking out on behalf of the community. However, his heroism is not exhausted only in his role in the war, but is equally contained in the understanding of his actions as a musician. The turning point that transformed Thompson from a celebrity into a hero was a specific political transgression that generated a polarized discourse around him active to this day. Actively participating in his own heroization, he interpreted the transgression in two ways: first by framing it in a heroic narrative about a necessary act of resistance for a higher purpose, and then by denying the transgression, portraying himself as a victim of the enemies of his political community. Thus, the narrative of his public activity transformed into a heroic agonal narrative in which Thompson is portrayed as being in constant conflict with the enemy, fighting for justice, truth and values of his community. The analysis of heroization in the context of a specific practice of memory – the Victory Day celebration in Čavoglave that Thompson organized as a parallel celebration to the official state one. In the discourse of the organizers the parallel celebration was defined as an apolitical folk celebration, where its apolitical and "folk" character was equated with the absence of official politics. However, the analysis showed that beneath it was actually a discourse about the opposition of the people and the political elite, and a political strategy of counter-memory. The celebration, conceived as a practice of popular resistance, opened up space for the actualization of the traditional epic (hajduk) heroic discourse, adding another heroic layer to Thompson's figure, transforming him into the heroic figure of the rebel and leader of the people's resistance. Along with the heroization of transgression, the main mechanism of Thompson's heroization is popularization, i.e. attributing popular folk characteristics to the hero. Within the context of the celebration conceived as a folk tradition, he is transformed into the folk's, i.e. people's hero. With the change in political circumstances, the celebration became a part of the official one, temporarily suspending the strategy of resistance, whereby Thompson's heroic role transformed from the leader of popular resistance into the leader of national unification. Parallel to the restoration of unity, the constitutive heroic transgression began to be officially sanctioned, but this legal process was realized as another heroization mechanism – contrary to the established judicial practice that was applied to "ordinary" people – Thompson's transgression was declared legal. The political community against which the hero stood officially established the heroic exception.