The Tale of a Forgery: Inventing the Protocols

  • Stephen Eric Bronner


The Protocols became the most influential piece of antisemitic propaganda ever created. Inspired by the first Zionist Congress of 1897 in Basel, when Mathieu Golovinski finished his fabrication of the tract in 1901, Imperial Russia was still suffering from an economic meltdown: its stock market had crashed, two major banks lay in ruins, and millions found themselves unemployed. The Zionist Congress seemed to justify his fears that Jewish capital was subverting the Russian monarchy. That the Dreyfus affair should have taken place just when Russia was in turmoil, and the Zionist Congress had been called, also confirmed Golovinski’s paranoid fantasy that an international Jewish conspiracy was causing global havoc while plotting to take over the world. An aristocrat’s son, a lawyer disbarred for embezzlement, and a scandal-mongering journalist, Golovinski was the agent of an arch-reactionary faction at the Russian court while he lived in Paris. But he was also flexible and an opportunist. Golovinski joined the Bolsheviks after 1917 and quickly rose through the ranks before his sudden death in 1920 at the age of 55. His background would undoubtedly have proven an embarrassment to the revolutionary authorities and, consequently, his role in the tale of a forgery ultimately wound up buried in the Soviet archives until the fine Russian historian, Mikhail Lepekhine, uncovered it in 2007 after five years of painstaking research.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Eric Bronner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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