Czech Young Pioneers

Figure 1.--This boy is receiving his red scarve, a symbol of acceptance in the Pioneer movement.

The Czech Pioneer movement was similar to similar organizations created in Eastern European countries. Like other countries, the uniforms were quite simple, dominated by red scarves. Unlike several other countries, the Scouts were allowed to opetate in Czecheslovakia, at least until the Sovier intervention in 1968. The Pioneer movement continues to operate in the Czech Republic--one of the few Eastern Eurooean countries where Pioneers still continue.


Thec pioneers were founded in Czecheslovakia before World War II. Czecheslovakia has a democratic Goverment before it was abandoned to the mercy of the NAZIs at the 1937 Munich Conference. I'm not sure about exact year, but they were founded by the Czech Communist Party as its youth wing. They were been called "Rudi prukopnici" (red pioneers). Similary like scouts, they were disbanded after the German occupation in 1939.

I am not sure when the Pioneer movenent was refounded, presumably soon after the establishment of a People's Republic in the 1940s. One Czech source reports, "Before 1968 (the Soviet intervention), neither Pioneers nor Scouts were controled by government." I'm not how to interpre this as in other Eastern European countries, the Pioneer movement was in fact, if not officially, contolled by the Communist Party.

After the Soviet occupation in 1968 there were major changes in the Czech Government and Communist Party. One of these changes was that all children's organisations were forced to unite in a new organization, the PO SSM. Those that refused, which was not advisable, had to disband.

The Pioneers continue to operate in the Czech Republic as thetvdid before the Soviet intervention. As do the Scouts. Every Czech child have a free choice to join scouts or pioneers or any other from several children's organisations, but only a few do this. More and more children form street gangs which try to steal, drugs and other bad things. I t is a very negative side effect of freedom.


The popularity of the Pioneers in Czecheslovakia is difficult to assess. One Czech observer, tells HBU that, "It's impossible to say popular or unpopular." From 1970 there was no alternative in the former Czeceslovakia. All children were Pioneers. Very fe children did not participate, it was virtually manditory. In the Czech Republic Today, some people feel ashamed of that fact they were members of the Pionyrska Organizace Socialistickeho Svazu Mladeze (PO SSM). They are especially reluctant to talk about it if they had achieved any higher rank. (That implied that their parents were in communist party). Most of the children were only the basic members without any political connections.

Pioneers meetings were favourite in similar way like going to the school, but more because everyone could choose the group or groups in which they they desired to participate. There was a lot of interesting activities that appealed to children. There were groups involved in a wide range of activities. For instance some kind of sport, art, work etc.) Any child could find a Pioneer group that he was interested in.

Despite considerable anti-communist feeling in Czecheslovakia, the Pioneer movement does not seem to have been unpopular with Czech children. A Czech observer notes, "It was an integral part of our childhood. (I was born 1974)."

There were some adult critics of the Pioneers. It was not possible, however, to openly criticize a state organization like the Pioneers. Critics were most of time in exille or in prison. Czech children were not generally exposed to the opinions of these ceitics. One Czech observer reports, that children did not generally vegin to think about such political ideas until they were in their teens, about 15 or so.

One Czech Pioneer reports, "As a child I didn't feel any wrong. I didn't know anything about the political background. At the time I thoughgt it is the normal way of life and was satisfied. My parents were not politically active (neithr communist nor opossition), so I didn'y have any political trouble. Most of ther adults Pioneer leaders of the groups I participated in were mainly interested in work with children so we were atracted by the activities they provide for us. Only a few people I met were very successful in the Communist Party. These peoples are also poltically activde today, but in another political parties. Bad characters."


Before the Soviet intervention in Czecheslovakia to crus the evolving reformist government, Scouting was permitted in the country. There were in fact two major youth groups, Pionyr/Pioneer (not PO SSM, it was founded in 1970) and Skaut/Scout. These organisations peacefully cooperated. A Czech observer reports, "The two groups largely cooperated. Their higher goal was to serve for children's grow. Yes, they were different in some areas, but nobody tried to persuade other that it is the only right way.

Before 1968 many Czech children did participate in Scouting. A Czech source reports, "I didn't hear about anybody who was both a Pioneer and Scout, but I think it was possible to be a member of both organisations. The only problem was free time (one cannot be at two places simultaneously). When I was a child I know only military scouts. Before 1968 Pioneers and Scouts cooperated together. A lots of Pioneer leaders after 1970 have come from the banned Scout organization. They continued in working with children, teaching them craftsmanship (make fire, cook meat, build tent etc.). Innessence they continued to engage in Scouting, but couldn't call themselves Scouts, profess a belief in God and so on."

Today in the Czech Republic the two groups coexist like before 1968. But all have only about 50,000 members.

Figure 2.--These Czech Pioneers are participating in one of the Communist celebrations which afforded them a day off from school.


The Czech Pioneer uniform was similar to that worn in other Easter European countries. It was a simple uniform of light blue shirt, dark blue pants or skirt worn with a red scarve. It was primarily worn on ceremonial occassions. There was no major uniform dectibction for the older children as was common in Scouting.


The Pioneer movement was a coed organization. Both boys and girls participated in the same groups and wore the same uniforms, except for pants for the boys and skirts for the girls. There was no official separation by gender. Some incidental diferrences were caused by a natuaral selection of activities. Boys were usually not interested in cooking or needlework and girls were not so much atracted by football or guns.


One check observer trports that the girl Pioneers appear to have been photographed more than the boys. "I think that girls are more suitable for photographers since they care about their looks much more than boys (photo of boy in disheveled or dirty uniform is not suitable for magazines). And as I remember, girls were wearing pioneer uniforms much more often than boys, so therewere much more occasions to get their photos." A Czech source reports, "By the way: it's maybe interesting, during weekend I was searching old magazines and notice that pictures of boys in pioneers uniforms appear much more rarely than of girls although photographers are both sexes, men and women."


Groupwork (by interests) for the Pioneers was after school (afternoon) every weekday, sometimes during weekend too. It depends on a type of choosen activity.


The Pioneers offered a wide range of activities to the children. Every year there were summer and winter camps. Some groups are oriented on nature and camping (like scouts). Other Pioneer groups focused on egineering, science, military, music, dance, firefighters, medics, and much more.


It was virtually impossible for Czech children to decline to participate in the Pioneers. Excommunication, note the religious term, was indeed the highest penalty that a Czech child could receive.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: April 15, 2000