Today, many people associate the term Young Pioneers with the travel company who led the way in North Korean tourism. However, the Young Pioneer was originally a youth movement founded in 1922. The movement’s full name was the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization. It was a mass youth organization of the USSR for kids aged 9–15. Similar to the Scout organizations in the West, Pioneers learned skills of social cooperation and attended publicly funded summer camps. Its motto: ‘’Always Ready!’’.
The main goals of Young Pioneers and requirements of membership were specified by the Regulations of the Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union; by the Solemn Promise which was given by each Young Pioneer joining the organization:
I, (full name), joining the ranks of the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization, in the presence of my comrades solemnly promise: to passionately love and cherish my Motherland, to live as the great Lenin bade us to, as the Communist Party teaches us to, as require the laws of the Pioneers of the Soviet Union.
After reciting the solemn promise, the new pioneer would be awarded the iconic red neck scarf which would be issued and tied by an older Pioneer, completing the process of becoming a full-fledged member of the organization.
The rules of the Young Pioneers were as follows:
- The Pioneer is a young builder of communism, labours for the welfare of the Motherland, and prepares to become its defender.
- The Pioneer is an active fighter for peace, a friend to Young Pioneers and workers’ children of all countries.
- The Pioneer follows the communists’ example, prepares to become a Komsomol member, and leads the Little Octobrists.
- The Pioneer upholds the organization’s honour, strengthens its authority by deeds and actions.
- The Pioneer is a reliable comrade, respects the elders, looks after younger people, always acts according to conscience.
- The Pioneer has a right to elect and be elected to Young Pioneer self-government institutions, to discuss the functioning of the Young Pioneer organization on Young Pioneer gatherings, meetings, gatherings of Soviets of Young Pioneer detachments and Young Pioneer groups, in the press; to criticize shortcomings; to submit a proposal to any Soviet of the Young Pioneer organization, including the Central Soviet of the V. I. Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization; to ask for a recommendation of the Soviet of Young Pioneer group to join the VLKSM when at the right age to join.
To reinforce Soviet atheist doctrine, the Young Pioneer Leader’s Handbook stated that “every Pioneer would set up an atheist’s corner at home with anti-religious pictures, poems, and sayings”, in contrast to the traditional Russian Christian icon corners.
Interestingly, membership was actually optional, but almost every kid in the Soviet Union belonged to the pioneers and it was a natural part of growing up. Not being admitted at all was odd, and not being interested in joining was considered very suspicious indeed.
As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the CPSS was banned, the Young Pioneers were forced to disband. However, there are some countries where Young Pioneer groups are still active such as Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. Whilst on one of our recent private tours through Transnistria we even discovered a functioning Young Pioneer school nestled deep in the woods. Throughout the other former Soviet Republics, all that remains are crumbling monuments to the once vast youth movement.
To experience the Young Pioneer movement still active across the former USSR, check out our range of tours to Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Transnistria, and Ukraine!