Introduction of sleeve insignia for Young Pioneer activists was gazetted in the article “To Put Performance of the Young Pioneer Organization on a War Footing” that was published on September 25, 1942 in the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” (“Комсомольская правда”) newspaper, No.226 (5321). Those regulations were subsequently published in the digest “Assistance to the Young Pioneer Organizer” (“В помощь пионервожатому”) issued a year later, in 1943 by the Saratov-based Newspapers and Books Publishing House of the regional committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). Thus, the very first sleeve insignia of Young Pioneer activists titled “special insignia” (“специальные знаки различия”) had the shape of horizontal stripes made of unconditioned red cloth and measuring 4 cm in length and 1 cm in height. Those stripes were stitched to the left sleeve above the elbow. Head of group headquarters wore three stripes; head of unit headquarters and members of group headquarters wore two stripes; leader of a Young Pioneer section, Young Pioneer instructor and members of unit headquarters wore one stripe.
According to the Young Pioneer organization structure of those days, each section (“zveno”) consisted of 8-10 Young Pioneers and was headed by a leader of the section (“vozhatyj zvena”). Two to four sections formed a unit (“otryad”) headed by a unit headquarters (“shtab otryada”) consisting of a head of headquarters (“nachal’nik shtaba otryada”) and 2-4 members (“chleny shtaba otryada”). Leaders of sections, heads and members of unit headquarters were jointly appointed by an organizer of a unit (“vozhatyj otryada”) and supervising teacher (“klassnyj rukovoditel’”). Units of schools, orphanages and boarding schools formed a group (“druzhina”) headed by a group headquarters (“shtab druzhiny”) that consisted of a head of headquarters (“nachal’nik shtaba druzhiny”) and 8-10 members (“chleny shtaba druzhiny”). Following nominations of a head and members of group headquarters by a senior organizer (“starshij pionervozhatyj”) their candidatures were sent for approval by Komsomol Committee and school headmaster (“director shkoly”) or school chief administrator (“zaveduyushchij shkoloj”). Leaders of Young Pioneer sections, members of headquarters, units and groups, heads of units’ and groups’ headquarters were appointed from among the most competent and initiative Young Pioneers. In areas where no schools exist, Komsomol committees were granted the right to create Young Pioneer units and groups operating on the premises of collective farms (kolkhozes), state farms (sovkhozes), house managements, extra-school institutions and workers’ clubhouses, as well as on the premises of Komsomol district and city committees.
By 1950 regulations on sleeve insignia for Young Pioneer activists has been subject to slight amendments while preserving their external appearance. Since then, three red stripes were worn by a chairman of a Young Pioneer group council; two stripes – by a chairman of a Young Pioneer unit council and a member of a Young Pioneer group council; one stripe – by a leader of a Young Pioneer section and a member of a Young Pioneer unit council.
These regulations were subsequently reflected in the Statute of the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization (Всесоюзная пионерская организация имени В.И.Ленина), approved by the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League and the Central Council of the Pioneer Organization. Statute was published on September 11, 1958 in the “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper, No.214 (10233).
In fact, authorized dimensions of sleeve stripes were not always strictly observed. They were sewn to long sleeve and short sleeve ceremonial white male shirts and female blouses, to service brown dresses for girls and to jackets of various design for boys. In some cases, stripes were worn on right sleeve instead of the left one. Moreover, despite primitivism of construction of sleeve stripes in household, many Young Pioneers never wore distinctive insignia at all. Such violation of regulations was reflected in the Decision of the VII Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League that was held in October 1951. The document titled “On Performance of Vladimir Lenin Pioneer Organization” (“О работе пионерской организации имени В.И.Ленина”) particularly stipulated: “At the same time performance of the Young Pioneer organization has serious shortcomings. (…) It must be pointed out that members of some Young Pioneer groups do not wear neckerchiefs and organizational badges, do not perform salute, and activists do not wear sleeve insignia”. To address this situation Plenary Session enacted: “Plenary Session considers it necessary to decide that each Young Pioneer must follow traditions of the Young Pioneer organization, wear neckerchief, badge and perform salute. Young Pioneer activists must wear their insignia”.
Exact date sleeve insignia of Young Pioneer activists of 1942 pattern, i.e. red cloth stripes was abolished is not known to the author yet. However, it happened not later than 1967, as it was that year that new pattern of sleeve insignia has been officially presented. It appeared in “Your Young Pioneer Uniform” (“Твоя пионерская форма”) colour slide film by Vasily Golyshkin (29.12.1915-1996) produced in 1967 by the Moscow-based “Slide Film” (“Диафильм”) studio.
This insignia was worn on the left sleeve of service and ceremonial cloth shirt for boys, cloth blouse for girls and jacket for Young Pioneer leaders slightly above sleeve chevron. It had a shape of the belt loop, i.e. horizontal cloth stripe of the same colour as garment it was sewn to: grey, green-grey, blue-grey, dark blue or white. Five-point stars, either small or big, were sewn in a row to that belt loop. Number and size of stars depended on position of its bearer in the structure of the Young Pioneer organization, namely:
- one small star – leader of Young Pioneer section, member of Young Pioneer unit council;
- two small stars – chairman of Young Pioneer unit council, member of Young Pioneer group council;
- three small stars – chairman of Young Pioneer group council, member of district or municipal Young Pioneer headquarters;
- four small stars – chairman of district or municipal Young Pioneer headquarters.
Big stars were worn by Komsomol members – Young Pioneer leaders and Komsomol employees who held the following positions in Young Pioneer councils:
- one big star – organizer of Young Pioneer unit;
- two big stars – member of Young Pioneer district or municipal council;
- three big stars – senior Young Pioneer organizer, chairman of Young Pioneer district or municipal council.
Please note that common member of the Young Pioneer organization wore no stars above sleeve chevron.
Colour of stars depended on the type of the belt loop they were attached to: either gilt (blue-grey, green-grey or dark blue fabric) or red (white fabric).
Photographic evidence suggests that sometimes big stars were attached to the ceremonial shirt without chevron being worn. At least, one photo from the author’s collection shows that style of non-regulatory wearing of sleeve insignia.
The author is aware of two different patterns of sleeve red stars from 1970s.
Stars of the first pattern had convex shape with raised faces were made of semi-transparent red plastic. Big stars measured 18 mm, while small ones measured 14 mm. Each star had special lug on its backside with a reach-through hole for sewing onto belt loops. Those stars were manufactured at the Moscow-based Decorative goods factory according to the industry standard OST 17-296-75 (“Metal and plastic toys”). Each polyethylene bag containing 100 stars was sold for 2 kopecks only ($0,01 approximately at 1975 prices).
Second pattern stars were made of non-transparent red plastic material. They had convex shape with multiple dents on rays and plain equilateral pentagon in the middle with salient central part. Like devices of the first pattern, these stars had special lugs with reach-through holes for sewing onto belt loops.
Sleeve chevron of the Young Pioneer was stitched to the left sleeve just above an elbow. It had a shape of the pentagon with two right angles above and one acute angle pointing downwards. Red five-point star was situated in the middle topped with three tongues of flame, the latter being a tribute to the Third International, or Comintern, an international organization that existed in 1919-1943 and advocated world communism. Initially that symbol appeared on a metal tie clip that was used as a Young Pioneer badge of 1927 pattern. An image described above was applied to the cloth chevron either machine embroidered or printed with colour paints.
Background of chevron for service and ceremonial (white) uniform was dark blue for junior Young Pioneers and yellow for elder members of the organization. The latter was the most common pattern.
Sleeve insignia of Young Pioneer activists that consisted of white belt loops with red stars was used until the dissolution of the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization that occurred during the XXII Extraordinary Komsomol Conference that was held on September 27, 1991 in Moscow.