The goal of this paper is to establish a relation between characteristic polynomials of N×NN×N GUE random matrices HH as N→∞N→∞, and Gaussian processes with logarithmic correlations. We introduce a regularized version of fractional Brownian motion with zero Hurst index, which is a Gaussian process with stationary increments and logarithmic increment structure. Then we prove that this process appears as a limit of DN(z)=−log|det(H−zI)|DN(z)=−log|det(H−zI)| on mesoscopic scales as N→∞N→∞. By employing a Fourier integral representation, we use this to prove a continuous analogue of a result by Diaconis and Shahshahani [J. Appl. Probab. 31A (1994) 49–62]. On the macroscopic scale, DN(x)DN(x) gives rise to yet another type of Gaussian process with logarithmic correlations. We give an explicit construction of the latter in terms of a Chebyshev–Fourier random series.