Soviet Young Pioneers: Activities

Figure 1.--Here we have a parade in Lenningrad (St. Petersburg). A Ruusian reader tells us that the phitograph was probably taken in 1972 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Young Pioneers. The children are dressed in their Pioneer uniforms with the red scarves. We are not sure what the event was here. Nor do we know why the boys wear green short pants. I though the standard Pioneer uniform was blue short or long pants. These green shorts do not seem to have been the childtren's regular Pioneer uniform. More likely it was a special outfit for the occassion. Also notice that the girls' skirts do not match the boys' shorts. Click on the image for a more detailed assessment of the parade. The children in this second image have round red badges. I'm not sure what they signified.

We do not yet have details on just what activities Young Pioneers were involved in as part of their program. The activities seem far more limited than the Scouting program. One reader writes, "We dressed in uniforms met in school, never in homes or of course churches. I remember playing table tennis (ping pong) and other games of this type. During our school vacations in the summer we went to camps." As far as we can tell, the program was primarily limited to a limited range of school-based activities and the annual summer camp. There does not seem to have been any kind of merit badge program. One activity that we do about was that the Pioneers were used as a way of organizing children to participate in parades for important national celebrations. Small groups of Pioneers alsp participate in a varietyy of ceremonial functions. Hopefully our Russian readers will provide us more details about the activities they ebgaged in as Young Pioneers.


A reader tells us there was a sea option. Presumably this dealt with boating. I think there was a specialized marine unit, similar to Sea Scouting.


Summer camp was a major activity for Young Pioneers. This was optional, but many children chose to attend summer camps. The cost was mostly paid or by the govrnnment. As far as I can tell, most children who wanted to go to Pioneer summer camps were able to do so. There were some wonderful show-case camps, but many camps were not as nearly well equipped. This of course affect the camp experience.

Civic Ceremonies

Small groups of Pioneers alsp participate in a varietyy of ceremonial functions. Of course the single most important of these was ceremonies at Moscow's Red Square around Lennin's tomb. This of course was only one memmorial where ceremonies were held. There were many others located throughout the country. The most important were those associated with the Great Patriotic War. These were normally carried out on important days to honor the courage of the men and women who dstroyed the invading German Whermacht. In addition to these there were a wide variety of other cermonial occassions in which Pioeer boy an girls might be featured.

Field Trips

We note Young Pioneer groups taking field trips. The ones we have noted or trips to what look like patriotic monuments and exhibitions. We suspect that there were also trips to museums and other points of interest to the children, much like school field trips. In fact because the Pioneeers were an essentially school-based youth groups, Young Pioneer fiekd ytrips seem to be essentially school field trips. Perhaps school and Pioneer field trips were organized separately. This we do not yet know. It may be there were separate field trips depending on the purpose of the visit. This is difficult to assess because the school uniforms and Pioneer uniforms were essentially the same.


One reader recalls playing games like ping-pong at school meetings.

Ideological Training

There was ideological training in the spirit of Communist outlook. I'm not sure yet what form this took.


A Russian reader tells us that journalism was an activity. We do not have any details on specifically what the children did.

Leadership Training

An important part of Scouting and other youth groups is leadership training. I assume this must have been involved in the Pioneers as well. With Scouting, the children themselves paeticipated in choosing the individuals for leadership posts. We are not sure if this was also the case in the Pioneers.

Merit Badges

There does not seem to have been any kind of merit badge program.

Million Native Land Motion

Another Pioneer activity was "Million Native Land Motion/March" . This was called a "motion" or "march" by the Pioneer organization. Pioneer units organized paper and scrab metal drives. Pioneers walked from apartment to apartment asking if the occupants had old newspapers and magazines or scrap metal such as old pots and pans. Children also looked for any discaded metal items in the neighborhood. They would then bring the material gathered to collection points. There materials were then recycled. The children were told that these collections were important for the national economy. I do not know if there are any definitive studies showing how valuable these efforts were. Pioneer literture claimed that there were tractors, railroad locomotives (trains) and even seagoing ships constructed from the scarap metal collected by the children. Some larger items were named in honor of the Pioneers, often using the names of Pioneer heros. Many Pioneers were killed during World War II in the struggle against German Fascism. Some were given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union on the level with adult soldiers. In the Soviet merchant fleet there was an entire flotilla of ships, which were nammed after Pioneer heroes. For example the "Pioneer of Wahl Cat" and others. Special tables were established on all such vessels, locomotives, tractors, ships that were made from the scrap metal collected by the Pioneers. This motion was an annual event and highly promoted by the Pioneer Organization.

Motions or Marches

The Pioneer Organization promoted 12 different group efforts. They seem to be called "motions" or" marchs". We do not have a complete list, but we have listed some of the most imporI'm not sure these are the best terms, but these are te terms generated by our computer translator tant ones here. These activities were social efforts stressing responsible behavior. They included activities such as rubbish/paper drives or helping elderly people. One of the interesting ones was the effort to scold naughty or negligent children at school.


One activity that we do know about was that the Pioneers were used as a way of organizing children to participate in parades for important national celebrations. There are many photographs of Pioneers participating in parades for on important national celebrations. They were almost a required part of important national celebrations. Here we see an especially large group of Young Pioneers parading (figure 1). It was probably the 50th anniversary of the Young Pioneers celebrated in 1972. We find that it is curious that for a celevration of the Young Pioneer anniversary that the children do not wear their Pioneer uniforms. In fact a new uniform was just adopted in 1968-69. It is incoceivable for example that American or English boys would parade in anything but the official SDcout uniform--especially an anniversary of Scouting. A Soviet reader tells us that these uniforms were just for the parade and the children had to turn them in afterwards. We more commonly see the Pioneers parading in their own standard uniforms.


A Russian reader tells us that photography was an activity with the children learning how to develop their own films.

Political Indoctrination

An important part of the Young Pioneer program was to help form correct (Party approved) thinking. We are not sure in what form this political indocrtination took and how it differed from school instruction. We do not knowif there were, for example, discussion groups and to what extent the children were allowed to raise questions.

School Service Duties

Pioneers performed a range of services at school. Pioneer leaders monitored behavior at school which influenced student prgress. The Pioneer units would intervene with problem students. Naughty or negligent students would be scolded at meetings in front of the group. There were punishments for those students that were continual problems. They might be, for example, denied the right to wear the Pioneer neckerchief for a time. The Pioneer unit would also offer assistance to those students encoutering difficuties in their studues. A good student might help tutor classmates having diffiulties. Pioneers might also help teachers working with younger students. We note a Pioneer boy helping in a kindergarten class about 1960. These helpers were called " vozhaty ". The role of the Pioneers in the schools is interesting represents a basic difference with Scouting. Some Scout troops were organized at schools, although this is now much less common in America. Scouts never played a role in the schools such as tutoring or assisting teachers, but most importantly were never used to assist teachers in disciplining children. The Pioneers appear to have been one of a wide range of Soviet institutions involved with social control.

Specialized Divisions

Within the overall Pioneer movement there were specialized units. These choices were not common and affected by individual interests. We do not know much about them yet. Presumably there was an air and sea option. We do not know if there were others. Another specialized unit was Caravelle, a unit organized by Vladislav krapivin, an important Soviet/Russian author of children's books. As I undrstand, Caravelle was a kind of sea-oriented summer camp.


Sports appears to have been a major activity. We did not know what sports the children did and just what kind of activities were involved. We assume that this was probably some kind of intramural progam, but have no details at this time. One reader mentions fencing.

Summer Lighting Motion

The Summer Lighting Motion was an esecially popular activity among many boys. I assume because of the name that this was a Summer activity persued during the school vacation. It was a military sport game. All Pioneer members played in this war game activity. Within the framework of this game a theoretical knowledge about the Soviet Army and Navy was necessary. Actual weapons were shown the children. {? Mel'chiki] and girls within the framework of this game for the first time could see actual weaponry and other military equipment during excursions with military units. Related games were organized. These were multi-level games, the nature varied depending on the children'ds age/grade level. Games were conducted both at the unit/school level which often meant in an urban level and at the provincial level. There were all national (All-Union level) games. The children actually used real military equipment under the supervision of soldiers. The games included overcoming obstacle course, sport competitions and relay races. Sometimes there was shooting from the small-caliber or other combat weapon. There were tactical exercises in which groups would assault enemy strong points armed with mock-up weapons. The children also worked on First aid, practicing the rendering of First Aid to injured sldiers and civilians. There were also orientation exercises where the children learned to read topographic maps and use compasses. Specifically, this military sport game most of all gives to the Pioneer organization the feature of skautskogo motion. At the high levels of this game for youths in the Pioneers was its osoboya uniform. Here separate military elements were added.

Timurovskoye Motion

"Timurovskoye Motion" Was named according to the book of Arkady Gaydar ( Arkadi Gaidar ) Timur and his Command". The purpose was to aid elderly people and infirm people. Here special consideration was given to the veterans of the Civil War in early years and World War II in later years. The idea was to help elderly people who were invalid or otherwise incapacitated. The children might run erands for them such as to the drug store or help tend their vegetable gardens or do household chores

Young Naturalists Program (Yunnaty)

The Young Naturalists Program (Yunnaty) was a state-run youth organization called the Central Station for Young Naturalists. The Young Naturalists, or "Yunnaty". I am not sure when the program was founded, but it was active in the 1930s. Yunnaty appears to have been part of the Young Pioneer organization. It was an after school activity that the Pioneers could chose. Yunnaty was a network of clubs for young people who were interested in nature. Here the focus was on nature rather than farming, but there was some overlap. An impotrtant Russian environmentalist, Alexander Bogolyubov, was unhappy at the time with how the organization was run. He writes, "There was no financial support, and the government took away any money that we earned, which was extremely unfair." Yunnaty still exists today. It is now part of the Center for Youth Creativity, what is left of the former Pioneer Organization. The Center provides many other after-school occupations, from dance and drama to photography and travel. The Center is based at the Anichkov Palace, which I (Carol) visited at the end of my stay, so more below on its programs.


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Created: 3:05 AM 3/14/2005
Last updated: 8:17 AM 12/7/2008