The Young Pioneers
were the Soviet
version of the Boy Scouts
and Girl Scouts
. Much like their fellow scouts in the West, the Young Pioneers wore uniforms and neckerchiefs, earned merit badges, went on campouts, and learned timeless values such as loyalty, honesty, and being prepared.
But the Young Pioneers were also designed to inculcate communist values and loyalty to the state. Young Pioneers were famously encouraged to spy on their parents and report any unloyal behavior to their troop leaders. The most famous Young Pioneer was Pavlik Morozov (1918-1932), who revealed his father's membership in an anti-communist organization to the Soviet police and was murdered by his relatives at the tender age of 13. For turning in his father at the cost of his own life Pavlik was immortalized by the state as a martyr who represented the purest ideals of the Young Pioneers, and became a patron saint of sorts for the organization.
The Young Pioneers were established shortly after the Russian Revolution of 1917. There were three levels within the system. From ages 6-10 young Russians were in the Children of October. From 10-15 they took part in the Young Pioneers proper, and at age 15 selected youths could go on to join the Komsomol ("Communist Union of Youth") - an elite youth group for the most promising young communists Russia had to offer - kind of like a Soviet version of the Eagle Scout. During the Soviet Union, all youth were required to be members of the Young Pioneers.
At its height in the 1970s, the Young Pioneers was the largest youth organization in the history of the world, with branches in every communist nation. The movement declined in the 1980s however, as membership was no longer as strictly enforced in some countries. With the end of the Cold War, membership in the Pioneers declined greatly in the former Soviet republics although the still exist in some areas were they are run by local communist parties. Today the Young Pioneers are strongest in China, where membership is still required of all youth.