During a late night history binge, I found a selection of images taken from a Russian Children’s camp in 1932 and some videos from later (not sure on the date, but my guess would be a mix of late 80s/early 90s).
The Young Pioneers were sort of like the communist version of Scouts which were established in 1922 (although there is much more to the organisation than just a ‘communist version of Scouts!) Whilst the Young Pioneers were disbanded after 1991, the summer camps still exist today – Artek and Orlenok being two of the most famous.
The children in the images are wearing a tie (which would have been red). This was directly based on the Scout system, where children wear neckers. The children took a pledge on joining the pioneers, much like the Scout promise, although unlike in the Scouts, the pledge was filled with promises to Lenin and the communist motherland. On completing their pledge, the children were presented with their red tie (much like children in the Scout association today) – they even promised to “be prepared” – the Scouting motto! To say that the Young Pioneers were simply just a copy of the Scout movement would be a very simplistic way of looking at the group, but certainly is a good start.
From the pictures in the videos you can clearly see that the children enjoyed similar activities – campfires, archery, sports and even a bit of abseiling for example. They took part in flag parades and ceremonies, much like their Scouting counterparts. Unlike the British youth groups, however, one video I saw (not linked to here) had the children parading with a large banner of Stalin – something that would certainly never happen in British camps!
The camp day started similarly to that you would expect in British camps – from the (limited) programmes I have seen, children woke up at 7, had scheduled times for breakfast lunch dinner, activities were scheduled in as well as lectures and educational activities. In many ways, the programme and daily routine resembles the summer camps found in the USA rather than those in the UK more, partially because of the camps’ sizes, but also the presence of counselors (young adults who lead groups of children), the large scale events, dorm based sleeping arrangements (although some, particularly those in the early history of the camps slept in tents) and communal eating. In some camps, the food the children ate was monitored and recorded, presumably as a way to ensure that the children were receiving enough food, particularly those that might not during the rest of the year.
If you’re interested in the Pioneer camps, British Carl Bromwich stayed at one during the summer of 1972. His account of the summer can be found https://sites.google.com/site/iwenttoapioneercamp1970s/
Some additional links