End of the Pioneer Movement

Figure 1.--These girls wear the classic school uniform of dress and pinafore. One girl reports that she and her friends decided to stop wearing this outfit and started coming to school in jeans. Notice that the girl on the right wears both her red Pioneer scarf and pin.

HBU has very limited information on the end of the Young Pioneer movement. The only information we have at this time deals with the end of the Pioneers in the Soviet Union. There were Pioneer movements in the Eastern European satellite countries as well. At this time we have no information on what happened to these groups.

Eastern Europe

The Communist governments of Eastern Europe were all, with the exception of Yugosalvia, impsed on the people of those countries by the Red Army in the aftermath of World War I. In each country a variety of legal and political subterfuges were pursued, but in fact the Soviet Red Army and the police forces contrlled by the Communists imposed Communist governments. In each country Young Pioneer groups were established as part of the machinery of the Communist state. HBC at this time has little information on the popularity of the Young Pioneers with the children. It is notable, however, that the Pioneers were disbanded in each country as soon as the Communist government fell with virtually no complaint. In addition, the authors note no nostalgic looking back or interest in restablishing the Pioneers. In contrast, Scouts were organized in each country, usually before Scouters were legally permitted to do so.

Soviet Union


HBU asked a Russian reader if the Pioneers were popular with Russian children. He responded, "It is impossible to answer unequivocally whether pioneers were popular or not. All children had to join the Pioneer organization at age 9 years. It was not by compulsion on the adult or other organizations. It was by the natural phenomenon. We did not reflect at all, you see there was no other alternative."

Government action

TheRussian Government in 1991, after the attempted Communist coup, outlawed the Communist Party. Along with the Party itself, all the associated organizations including the Pioneers were disbanded. The Pioneer organization was more of a Party organization than a Government agency. According to a Russian reader, "It was constructed on Communist ideologies. It was a swing of the pendulum. The more it deviates in the extremely left situation, the more it will deviate then in extremely right situation."

Eventually as part of the building of a democratic society, the communists were allowed to reorganize their party. But the Pioneer organization has disappeared practically completely. There was no attempt by the Communists to restore or reorganize the Pioneers. Nor did the Russian Government make any effort to set up a new youth movement.


A Russian reader indicates that he believes that the Pioneer organization was very expensive to operate and that in Russia at this time, with all the economic problems, funds are just not possible. He does not think that Russia will be able to support such a youth group for many years. He asks, for example, "Did America have Scouts in the era of Tom Sawyer and the "Wild West?" He points out that in today's Russia, everyone expect short profits. Surely our Russian reader is quite correct that financial problems do affect youth organizations. But we wonder if that the complete disaapearance of the Pioneers and lack of interest in creating a private group does not suggest a basic weakness in the movement. HBU notes that Scouting continued in America and other countries even during the Great Depression of the 1930s and was restablished in Russia and Eastern European countries as soon as the police stopped arresting Scout leaders. The Scoits now operate without any government support, although admitedly the roles of Russian and Eastern European Scouts are still quite limited.

Personal accounts

Apparently interest in the Pioneers began to decline even before the Soviet Union was disolved in 1992. One Russian girl writes: was a Pioneer when I was younger. But then in the 7th grade, we decided to stop wearing our red Pioneer scarfs to school. We used to wear those red scarfs with school uniforms--those brown dresses with pinafores--but one day, by agreement, everyone just came to school in jeans. Some of the teachers got upset, and told us, "You are Pioneers, you need to take these things more seriously." But in the end, they only really scolded us a little bit. A month later, they changed the rules at school so we didn't have to wear the uniforms and scarves anymore. People my age don't really think too much about politics. Other than making fun of Yeltsin or the communists or whoever, we really don't think about these things. When I think of Lenin, I picture this short, bald little guy waving his arms at some tribunal. Even though he was obviously very smart -- he got the whole country to follow him, after all--now he's just somebody to make fun of. The only thing I miss from the Soviet era is those old films they used to make, where everybody is smiling and happy, and always kind to each other. Growing up, I always thought of Leningrad as a place where the sun was always shining, because that's how it was in these movies. Everybody helped each other, and cared about each other. But those movies are the only thing I miss.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: May 29, 2001