Of Russian origin: Pioneers
“Always be Ready!”
This was the simple motto of youth organizations the world over, and of the Young Pioneers in the Soviet Union. From 1922 to 1990, generations of 10-15 year old children in the Soviet Union learned, exercised, explored and extolled the virtues of their society through the “Pioneers.” The organization is remembered fondly today by millions of people from all over the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe not so much as a brainwashing system (though instilling patriotism and ideological education was part of the reason behind the creation of all such youth organizations) but as part of their growing up, where they made friends and became dynamic young souls.
Being a pillar of the old regime, many Tsarist scoutmasters fought against the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war. But once the Soviet system was in place, some decided it was better to join it and it helped create a Pioneer system which borrowed a lot from the Scouts that came before. The motto "be prepared" stayed. So did most of the activities. Outdoor exercise, camping and adventure trips, arts and crafts, as well as music and sports were all staples of the Pioneers as in most such organizations. However, the Pioneers was altered to Soviet ideals about society and a young person’s role in it, as opposed to the imperial virtues in Britain’s (or Tsarist Russia’s) scouting movement, or Nazi doctrine in the case of the Hitler youth.
When joining, a young person would often have come from being a Young Octobrist, or “Oktyabryonok.” The Young Octobrists was an organization for children aged seven to nine. They were organized into school year groups and subdivided into groups of five called little stars. Their symbol was a red five pointed badge with a picture of Lenin in his childhood. Each group also had a little red flag. A Pioneer was responsible for each group. They would have to make a promise to their fellow Pioneers to be accepted:
“I, (last name, first name), joining the ranks of the V. I. Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization, in the presence of my comrades solemnly promise: to love and cherish my Motherland passionately, to live as the great Lenin bade us, as the Communist Party teaches us, and as required by the laws of the Young Pioneers of the Soviet Union.”
They would also have to abide by a code or rules as well, as befitted an upstanding young communist. A Young Pioneer, according to the rules of 1986:
- is a young communism builder, labors for the welfare of the Motherland and prepares to become its defender.
- is an active fighter for peace, a friend to the Young Pioneers and workers' children of all countries.
- follows the communist’s example, prepares to become a Komsomol member and leads the Little Octobrists.
- upholds the honor of the organization and strengthens its authority by deeds and actions.
- is a reliable comrade, respects one’s elders, looks after younger people and always acts according to conscience.
- has a right to elect and be elected to Young Pioneer self-government institutions, to discuss the functioning of the Young Pioneer organization at Young Pioneer gatherings, meetings, gatherings of the 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 and to ask for a recommendation from the Soviet of the Young Pioneer group to join VLKSM (KOMSOMOL).
In the Soviet Union the Pioneers also had the admirable effect of playing a major role in the eradication of illiteracy from 1923. Each group of pioneers, or ‘detachment’ was made up from the number of children in a school (before 1942) or in a class (after) so the exposure to reading and writing was continuous.
Also, like many other youth organizations, the Pioneers was militaristic in style with many symbols of hierarchy and the state. Flags, bugles and drums all helped to instill a sense of belonging to a cause, and young pioneers wore uniforms with badges of rank. It had its
own songs as well. One of more popular ones, which, roughly translated, is titled "High rise our campfires", begins with …
High rise our campfires into the blue night,
We are pioneers -- the children of the workers,
Near is the time of our best years
And the pioneers’ motto is, ‘Always be ready!’
A rousing call to all young adventurers. Sadly, many of the martial virtues inculcated by the Pioneers would be called upon in the woeful baptism of fires of 1941. As Nazi armies surged east, many pioneers helped fight them as best they could as part of partisan detachments, experiencing horrors no youth camp could prepare them for. But bravery found its voice even in these young souls. 30,000 were awarded medals or orders from the war, and four even gained the highest honor bestowed by the country and became Heroes of the Soviet Union.
The Pioneers was disbanded as an organization in 1990. But its spirit and its songs live on in Russian society and popular culture. So remember -Young Pioneer, be prepared to fight for the cause of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union! - and be - Always prepared!
Written by Oleg Dmitriev, RT