History and Traditions

The National Organisation of Russian Scouts was founded in 1909 following the visit of Lord Baden Powell to Russia. Tsar Nicholas II commissioned Colonel Oleg Pantuhoff to start Russian Scouting, and the first troop was formed at Tsarskoe Selo, St. Petersburg in 1909. The Tsarevitch Alexei was the first Scout. The first Russian Scout campfire was lit in the woods of Tsarskoe Selo, in Pavlosk Park, to be exact. A beautiful Russian scout song exists to remember this event. It is rare and almost unknown in modern day Russia.

Palace of Catherine the Great at Tsarskoe Selo
the city where Russian Scouting was established
by Tsar Nicholas II
The Tsarevitch Alexei.
First Russian Scout
  Colonel Oleg Pantuhoff
Chief Russian Scout
Pavlovsk Park, site of the
first Russian Scout campfire.

Growth of Russian Scouting, Revolution and Exile

The National Organisation of Russian Scouts spread rapidly across Russia and into Siberia.

With the advent of Communism, after the Russian Revolution, the Scout Organisation was banned and there was a purge of the Scout Leaders, many of whom perished under the cruel hand of the Bolsheviks. The National Organisation of Russian Scouts then went into exile to almost every continent of the world.

Huge groups could be found in almost every country, the movement spreading in a two pronged direction along with the White Russian emigres. One wave moved through Europe, establishing groups in France, Serbia, Bulgaria,and other European countries. A much larger mass moved through Vladivostok to the east into Manchuria and south into China where very large groups of thousands of Russian Scouts came into being in cities such as Harbin, Tientsin and Shanghai.

The Chief Scout of Russia, Colonel Oleg Pantuhoff first resided in France and then moved to the USA where large troops of the National Organisation of Russian Scouts were established in cities such as San Francisco (Gerie Street), Burlingame, Los Angeles etc. He returned to Nice, France where he passed away at a very mature age. Other troops worked in Argentina,Chile & Paraguay.

As Communism reached China in 1949, the Russian Scout troops of Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies and Rovers emigrated once more.

An interesting historical sidelight which is almost unknown to the international scout brotherhood, is that during this time tens of thousands of White Russian emigres, along with Russian Scouts, were repatriated from Shanghai through the kindness of the United States and the American Marines.

The refugees were literally dumped on a remote island (Tobabao) near south Samar and near the landing place of General MacArthur. Due to the urgency of further evacuations, the Russian refugees were given tents, bully beef tins of food (many bloated & toxic) and left to fend for themselves in the jungles.

It was the National Organisation of Russian Scouts that came to the rescue of the unfortunate refugees, many of whom were professionals and had no idea of how to erect a tent, let alone survive in such an enervating environment.

A huge tent city was built by the scouts. Abandoned war equipment such as generators, pumps and jeeps were salvaged by the scouts from nearby islands and the colony lived on with the help then of the United Nations.

The National Organisation of Russian Scouts comprised over 1500 members with famous Scoutmasters such as Alex Kniaseff (later to be Chief Russian Scout) Michael Plehanoff and Oleg Livitsky, leading a * DAILY * life of the numerous troops along with with their respective leaders.

From the Philippines National Organisation of Russian Scouts moved to Australia and also joined compatriots waiting in USA. The first troop in Australia was formed in 1949 and grew rapidly into many troops.

Annual camps numbered 250 participants of both genders and to this day NORS in Australia is very strong and is in the process in assisting in the rebirth of scouting in Russia.

It is interesting to note that during the Stalinist era, the dictator recognised the worth of the scout system and created the Pioneers and Komsomol Youth League and even adopted the motto "BE PREPARED." Of course God was removed being replaced by Lenin and the communist party.

Scouting began to re-emerge in Russia in 1991, with various factions competing for recognition. Some former pioneer leaders and civilians who wished to form scout groups for whatever reasons (hopefully scouting ideals) belong to the FSR. Church influence can be seen in the Orthodox Scouts who received assistance from National Organisation of Russian Scouts in France & Australia. There is also ORUR, an emigre group which came into being in 1946. They have now moved their headquarters from New York to Moscow and are negotiating with the FSR (the Federation of Scouts of Russia).

NORS is assisting in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ukraine and Belorussia.

The French branch of NORS, headed by Senior Scout Master Alexei Rutschowsky, is continually travelling to Russia and receiving contingents from Russia – the latest one of of 120 scout from St Petersburg due to arrive in Paris in May 1996 for investiture as the National Organisation of Russian Scouts, and to learn the historical basis of Russian Scouting. I understand they have started a Historical Scout Centre in St. Petersburg, much of the material provided by the National Organisation of Russian scouts in France and in Australia.

The international community in conjunction with WOSM has made great inroads into Russia with many activities taking place. Eventually it is hoped that Russian Scouting will come under the one National banner.

Emblems of the National Organization of Russian Scouts

The NORS Emblem

NORS Emblem

The emblem of the National Organization of Russian Scouts is the original emblem of Russian Scouting as formed in Saint Petersburg in 1909 by Colonel Oleg Pantuhoff. It went into exile with the Scouts after the Revolution. It continues in use by the National Organization of Russian Scouts outside Russia. The emblem depicts Saint George slaying the dragon superimposed on the traditional fleur-de-lis of Scouting. Saint George is the patron saint of Russia and appeared on the Imperial Arms on a shield supported by the double-headed eagle. Another representation of the NORS Emblem is found at the top of this page. It is adapted from a hand-carved wooden shield in use by Scouts of NORS in Australia.

The Arms of Moscow

The Arms of Russia
with the shield of Saint George
  The Arms of Moscow
Saint George
slaying the Dragon
  The Arms of Imperial Russia
with the shield of Saint George
and the cross of Saint Andrew

The double-headed Eagle has served as the Russian Coat of Arms since 15th century, when it was borrowed by Tsar Ivan the III from the Byzantine Empire. The original color was black, as one can still see on the flag of Albania. With the expansion of the Russian Empire, the Eagle was decorated with shields of conquered countries and regions. These arms were banned after the Revolution in 1917.

In 1994 Russian Duma (Parliament) restored the double-headed eagle as the official Arms of Russia. The shield of St.George the Victor has served as the Arms of the City of Moscow without interruption since the 14th century. This shield is superimposed on the double-headed eagle as a symbol of the Russian capital.

NORS Guides Emblem

NORS Guides Emblem

The Russian Guides were founded by Colonel Pantuhoff’s wife, Irina. Their symbol represents the white wildflowers that appear first after the winter’s thaw. In Russian they are called "Podsnishnik." This means "from under the snow." White symbolizes the Guide’s purity. The motto in the center is "Be Prepared;" on the sides – Remember Russia. The fleur-de-lys of the NORS emblem is used by both Scouts and Guides.

St. George and Scouting

St. George is a popular figure in chivalry and heraldry. He is the patron saint of England and, as B-P says in Scouting for Boys: "He is also the Patron Saint of Boy Scouts everywhere. Therefore, all Scouts should know his story." For more about St. George see Saint George, Patron Saint of Scouting.

If you are interested in the work of the National Organization of Russian Scouts,
please write to:
Nikita Gileff,Chief Scout of NORS, Australia at:

Links to the History of the National Organization of Russian Scouts

Home Page of the National Organization of Russian Scouts. Includes Links to Russian Scouting.
NORS in Russia, 1909-1922. Some rare pictures of Scouting in Russia before the Revolution, including pictures of the First Chief Russian Scout, Colonel Oleg Pantuhoff.
NORS in China, 1922-1949. Many Russians moved east to Siberia and Northern China during the Civil War between the Reds and the Whites from 1917 to 1922. A large number settled in China where they maintained the traditions of Russian Scouting. NORS was recognized by the World Organization from 1928 to 1945 as a Scouting organization "in exile."
NORS in the Philippines and France, 1949-1950. With the Communist takeover in China, most Westerners left the country. Many Russians were evacuated to the Philippines and brought Scouting with them. Also, Russian Scouting continued in France, America and other countries with large Russian emigré populations.
NORS in Australia, 1949-1996. A large number of Russians moved to Australia from the Philippines and China. NORS continues active in the Russian community in Australia to the present day.
NORS, Australia: Summer Camp, 2001. Photographs from 2001.
NORS, Australia: Summer Camp, 2002. Photographs from 2002.

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Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 2003
Last Modified: 7:32 AM on January 3, 2003