Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dostoevsky's Antisemitism

I found this article about Dostoevsky as an anti-Semite. I thought it was interesting that he, like Voltaire, expressed his anti-Semitism. However, he never admitted to being an anti Semite, perhaps out of guilt because of his Christian morals.
Today we talked about how Dostoevsky included characters in his works of literature that mirrored people in his life and his historical background. The article states that Dostoevsky was first exposed to Jews in Siberia during the eight years he spent there in exile. This quote is from Dostoevsky's "The Devils": "The Jews lived solely in expectation of the true God, and they left this true God to the world...A nation which loses faith is no longer a nation. But there is only one truth; consequently, only one nation can posses the true God...The sole "God bearing" nation is the Russian nation..." Dostoevsky's strong faith in the Orthadox religion led him to disdain Jews, but it is ironic that he criticizes Jews when he wrote abundantly about the human condition.
What do you all think?


Samantha said...

I agree with you, Julia. I think Dostoevsky's Anti-Semitism was extremely hypocritical. Because he claimed to be such a religious, "pure Christian," emanating from Russia, the "uncorrupted Christian land," he should not have demonstrated prejudice or bigotry against any group of people. This behavior defies the definition of a "good Christian." His Anti-Semitism is additionally hypocritical as a majority of his writing focused upon the human condition, as Julia mentioned. Although Voltaire’s Anti-Semitism was also hypocritical as it contradicted much of his satire, he did not identify himself as a devout Christian.

C-Sted said...

I guess this is pretty damning evidence. I do not understand why Dostoevsky insisted that he wasn't a Anti-Semite. The essay is well written and makes Dostoevsky's viewpoint pretty clear.
As we always mention in class, people are products of their environment. Based on the fact that Dostoevsky hadn't even met a Jew until his exile in Siberia (which was also a pretty terrible point in his life), I guess it isn't surprising that he stereotyped them. It really is a shame, as it cheapens his discourse on humanity as a whole.