Dr Michal Mochtak presented the paper “Mythologising War: Legacies of Conflict in Croatian Parliament Debates”. The paper analyses almost fifteen years of Croatian parliament debates and identifies what can be called a discourse of war legacies. Using the latest advancements in natural language processing, the paper utilizes latent semantic indexing models and discusses how politicians talk about war in terms of common narratives and shared frameworks. People, places, and organisations directly connected with Croatia’s war past are examined in their average contexts. Using a complex vector representation of war-related concepts, the paper specifically focuses on their framing in the context of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). The results show that war past is predominantly shaped by discourse of war veterans who often dominate the war-related agenda. We can also observe a very disturbing trend of pushing the most frequent war concepts to a more extreme framing as a potential reflection of their effective utilisation as a political tool.
During the impresso talk, Josip Glaurdić and Michal Mochtak, from the ELWar project (Electoral Legacies of War: Political Competition in Postwar Southeast Europe), presented the sources and tools they mobilised to study the public discourse in the pre-war Yugoslavia.
In the summer of 1988, in the midst of Yugoslavia’s crisis which ultimately led to its dissolution and wars, the Belgrade daily “Politika” opened its pages to readers’ comments. It was an unprecedented editorial decision for the largest broadsheet in this still socialist country. “Politika” was flooded with letters from their predominantly Serb readership from all over the country.
During the three years which followed, it published this outpouring of accusations and protests against Serbia’s enemies – real and imagined, domestic and foreign, contemporary and historical – in the form of more than four thousand letters.
Using the latest advances in natural language processing and a unique dataset on the characteristics of the letters’ authors, we analyse this corpus of unprecedented significance and provide crucial insights not only on the history of Yugoslavia’s breakup, but also on the sources and patterns of the discourse of grievance and animosity in the run up to a violent conflict.