This paper analyzes the student migration of Jews from Tsarist Russia to the universities of Bern and Zürich in German-speaking Switzerland between 1865 and 1914. The Russian-Jewish students are considered with regard to numbers, migration patterns, motives for migration and life in the student colonies of Bern and Zürich, and they are studied as a social group with shared perspectives. The population movement is considered a migration system; specific structural determinants lead to large-scale emigration of Jewish students from Russia, and information on liberal admission policies triggered their movement to Swiss universities in great numbers and for more than 50 years. In Bern and Zürich, the Russian-Jewish students – about half of them women – crowded the medical faculties and followed lectures in historical-linguistic subjects and natural sciences. They populated few streets around university and constituted veritable Yiddish-speaking ‘colonies’. These colonies featured an active social life and political struggles that would influence the development of important political movements of East European Jewry such as Bundism and Zionism
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