*** young pioneer movement

Young Pioneers

Youg Pioneers
Figure 1.--This was the flag of the Soviet Young Pioneer movement, a red flag, with a star, flame and image of Lennin, the Soviet icon.

The Young Pioneer movement is the largest youth organizatioin in history. Not oinly was it a mnadatory school-based program, but so manu counties wererebinvolved, including larhe countries like the Soviet Union and China. It involved virtually all Soviet, eastern European, and Chinese children, as well as children in Cuba, North Korea, and Viet Nam for nearly half a century. It does not, however, appear to be as effective as either the Hitler Youth in totaliatarian NAZI Germany or the Scouts in many democratic countries. The Hitler Youth effectively motivated German children, of course not in an poitive way, but just as Hitler wanted. And it seoarated children from both school and family. The Pineers attempted to separate children and family, probbly not as effectivly as the Hitler Youth. The various activities, except for summer camp, were conducted through the school. Both differeed fundamentally from the Scouts which werea family based organization--Cub and Scout krasers were commonly nparents. HBU knows of much less written about the Young Pioneers and there appear to be far fewer images available of the children in their Pioneer uniforms. Unlike the Scouts, we note few internet sites about the Young Pioneers and very few of all the children affected interested in setting down their experiences.


The Communist Revolution in Russia occured during 1917, before the Scouting movement could be established to any extent. Scouting has always been a middle-class movement. The Communists instead set up the Young Pioneer movement to involve all children. The Communist Party (CPSU) was the most important organization in the Soviet Union. The Party used youth groups like the Young Pioneers as part of its overall program to inculcate Communist ideology. Other potentially competing youth groups were outlawed. We do not notice mich in the way of activity in the earkl years of the Soviet Union. Of course our informatioin is limited, but as farvaswe can tell not a lot of emohasis was given to the movement. A great deal of attention was given to education and the Pioneers was a school based program. nd the infrastructure for a major ummer camp program did npt yet exist. This is a subject we hope to address in greater detail. as HBU expands. One highly publicized pre-World War II incident was thestory of Pavlik Morozov. He is today infamous as the boy who betrayed his father to the NKVD. At the time he became a model for Soviet children. It as the best exaple of the Soviet of tghe rarely stated pribnciple that Soviet children did not belong to their parents, but were the property if the state. Soviet propagandists used the imcident promoye loyalty to the state. The actual chain of events has been disputed, byr the story promoted to create the boy's legend started as crime story. He and his brother Fyodor, aged 13 and 9 years old were discoiverd dead in the woods around Gerasimovka. This was a remote village on the fringe of the Urals and Western Siberia (1932). The NKVD in Tavda district blamed in on kulaks which the NKVD was ijn tghe process of killing as pary of the collectivisation process. The story was first reported in the local press (September 17). It was picked up by the Moscow press (October). This includefd Pioneer Pravda, the official newspaper of the Young Pioneers. Pavlik became nationally renowned. A biography was published to make him into a shining child hero who illustrared youth activism and to help transform the backward Soviet countryside and Soviet society in general. Stlain considered Pavlik a 'little pig', but did not interfere in the propgnda effort. At the Time, the Soviet Pioneer movement was the only such group. This would change after Workd War II.

Gerrman Young Pioneers
Figure 2.--East German pioneers participating in a school ceremony during the 1980s. Notice the red flag. Surprisingly, it does not look red.

Individual Country Movements

The first Pioneer movement was established in the Soviet Union, but upon seizing power, the Communist Party established the Young Pioneers in each country where they seized power from Momgolia to Cuba. Several countries of Eastern Europe including the Ukraine had active Scout movements which developed before and after the First World War. The Scouting Movement was supressed by the NAZIs in most occupied countries, especially in Eastern Europe. After the War the movement was outlawed by the Communists who organized national Young Pionner groups. Like the Soviet Communist Party, local Communists insisted on total control over schools and other institutions involved with children. There were no competing youth groups involved.

Chinese Young Pioneers
Figure 3.--Pioneers in China and other Asian Communist countries often do not have uniforms, but instead wear kerchiefs with their ordinary clothes.


Pioneer uniforms like Scout uniforms varied from country to country. They appear to have been much simplier than Scout uniforms with far fewer badges being worn. Thecone constant from country to country is of course the scarves. All Pioneer units had red scarves, although younger boys might wear blue scarves. Caps were much less common. Shoirts were usually plain white or blue dress shirts--although other colors were also worn. Boys wore both short and long pants. Kneesocks were not as common as in Scouting and in many cases there was no standard type of socks. Sandals were not common, but were sometimes worn.

Current Status

The fall of Communism in Eastern Europe has brought an end to the Young Pioneer Movement. It continues in Russia, but participation is just a fraction of the massive youth movement which once functioned in the Soviet Union. It has disappeared complelety in the Baltic states and other Eastern European countries where the movement had little grass root support and existed only because of Government financial support and the need to participate to demonstrate ideological conformity to gain academic and professonal advancement. East Europeans today have mixed emotions about the disappearance of the Pioneers. The Pioneers in East Germany as in the other East Bloc countries disapeared really quick. Also the FDJ, which was a forbidden organization in Western Germany was disbanded. This didn't bother most of the kids, especially given the big changes in Germany. Some changes, however, weren't so positive. Summer camp declined. There were a lot of economic difficulties. Most companys didn't have the money anymore to run the summer camps. So many kids today have to hang around home for the long summer-break. One German teen writes, "The re-union of Germany in general was good, but there are also some bad trends. So today everyone fights only for himself, the big holding-together of the people in the GDR doesn't exist anymore." Some Eastern Euroean boys have returned to Scouting, although the strained economic conditions throughout most of Eastern Europe limit the abilities of many boys to participate.

Pioneer summer camps
Figure 4.--Summer camps were one popular aspect of the Young Pioneers. Most income families in Eastern Europe can now not aford such camp experiences.

Summer Camps

The Young Pioneers in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries also built nation-wide systems of youth camps. We believe that each of the European satellite countries as well as the Soviet Union had impotant ummer camp program. We believe that virtually all children particiapted in these programs, but are not sure if any choice was involved. We believe that these were coed camps, but again have little information. Nor do we have much information on what type of uniforms were worn at the summer camps. We are not sure if the Asian communist countries also had summer camp programs.


HBU has noted very few available images of boys in their Young Pioneer uniforms. We have found some uniforms in old Soviet magazines, but there seem to be relatively few individual portraits that parents had taken of their children in their uniforms. In contrast there are numerous such portraits of German boys in Hitler Youth uniforms or American boys in their Scout uniforms.

Additional Information

Young Pioneers in Russia served in ceremonial functions, such as guarding war memorials. One account in Kiev notes:

Four young people, barely in their teens guns held to their shoulders, goose-stepped down the concrete. Their faces were marked by more than the sternness of military training: they were hardened into the emotionless expressions of people afraid to show what goes on in their hearts and minds. Green clothing with red neckerchiefs identified these four as Young Pioneers. The changing of the guard at the war memorial was commencing. Their marching footsteps echoed off the pavement. The sound of metal on flesh and cloth pattered as the routine came to an end. The old guard's footsteps receded. The air was heavy with a moisture that promised rain.

Many Soviet era jokes concerned the Young Pioneers. The focus of the jokes, however, appear different than those associated with the Scouts in the west.

Related Information

Soviet children's literature


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 2:36 PM 11/9/2021