Dostoevsky and the Word "jew": A Quantitative Analysis of F.M. Dostoevsky's Greatest Novels

Yigal Nirenberg, Gila Prebor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relationship of F.M Dostoevsky with Jews attracted the attention of numerous scholars throughout the years, many of whom attempted to grapple with the views of the great writer and their origin. In this article we will attempt to show this relationship by analyzing six of Dostoevsky's greatest novels, written through the entirety of his career. We are analyzing these novels using Distant Reading in conjunction with Close Reading, tools that are commonly used in the field of digital humanities, which enabled us to show visually the extent of F.M. Dostoevsky's engagement with this topic. The study poses two research questions: 1. To what extent did the writer use the more denigrating term "Zhid"? 2. Can we see a correlation between the writer's portrayal of Jews with the definition of Anti-Semitism as it was known during his era? The obtained results show that there is clearly a correlation between the definition of anti-Semitism as it was understood at the time of Dostoevsky and the "Jew"as depicted in his novels, as the financial motif is paramount in the depiction of Jews as this is the central topic in 49% of the negative sentences in which the word "Jew"appears, with 59% of these sentences classified as stereotypes. The negative financial stereotype constitutes 32% of the entire corpus. In addition, we found the term "Zhid"is commonly used by the writer, a variation of which constitutes 75% of the total terms used to depict Jews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-96
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • Dostoyevsky
  • Fyodor Mikhaylovich
  • digital humanities
  • distant reading


Dive into the research topics of 'Dostoevsky and the Word "jew": A Quantitative Analysis of F.M. Dostoevsky's Greatest Novels'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this