Scouting in Russia:
The Siberian Scout Initiative

Scouting began in Russia in 1908 and grew rapidly as a result of the interest of Czar Nicholas II and an encouraging visit from Sir Robert Baden-Powell to Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1910. By 1922, with the consolidation of the Soviet state, Scouting was disbanded officially and remained so until 1990. Modern Scouting came to the attention of the Soviet government in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. When the Soviet government began to realize the danger of radiation in the aftermath of the accident, they decided to resettle large numbers of children outside of the effected zone to limit their exposure to radiation. The government appealed to governmental and non-governmental organizations abroad. The World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM) was quick to respond, and the Soviets were impressed with the worldwide support WOSM was able to muster. Soon, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) began to receive inquiries for assistance from the government and Russian adults attempting to re-establish Scouting. In October of 1990, then Chief Scout Executive, Ben Love visited Moscow and helped create the momentum that has resulted in a renewal of the movement in Russia.

Dr. Alexander Bondar, a Russian citizen with extensive experience in the International Red Cross and the World Organization of the Scout Movement, was appointed by WOSM to establish Offices of Scouting Information in Moscow and Yalta. He serves as the connecting link between WOSM and those working to establish Scouting in Russia. Both a leader’s handbook and a Scout handbook have been written in Russian by Dr. Ludmilla Bondar.

The Federation of Scouts of Russia

The Federation of Scouts of Russia (FSR) was organized consisting of three regional associations; the Scout Association of St. Petersburg, The Union of Scouts of Moscow, and the Siberian Association of Scouts (SibAS). A constitution, bylaws, and a promise and law were adopted under the guidance of WOSM. FSR has established offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg, elected officers, and continues to grow.

At the same time, other Scout organizations have been forming. Two of them are ORUR, an organization supported by expatriate Russian citizens in other parts of the world, and The Federation of Orthodox Scouts, closely aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church. Other independent groups are also forming. It is hoped that a single National Scout Organization will emerge in due time.


In 1991, at the time of the formation of the FSR, there were approximately 7000 Scouts in units in 40 different cities from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. By the end of 1994, Scout membership in Russia had grown to more than 25,000.

The Siberian Scout Initiative

In 1992, at the invitation of the World Scout Bureau and funded by a special grant, the Boy Scouts of America established a three year program to assist the formation of Scouting in the Siberian part of Russia. A seasoned BSA Scout professional with leadership experience in several local councils and the BSA national staff was appointed as the Project Director. In the next three years, he spent an average of 26 weeks per year in Siberia, primarily recruiting and training unit leaders, developing community level support teams, raising the visibility of Scout activities through the media and developing financial stability.

The project objectives included:

  • Organizing Scouting units in Siberia.
  • Making the Scouting program known and accepted by authorities in Siberia.
  • Providing educational and technical assistance.
  • Helping Scouting become self-sufficient by the end of the three-year period in August, 1995.

At the beginning of 1995 the Siberian Scout Association reported programs in more than thirty cities and towns in the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. In four major Siberian cities–Omsk, Tomsk, Irkutsk and Perm–coordinating committees have been created to function as a local executive board to guide the growth of Scouting in the local community. In the fall of 1995, leaders from these cities and from the Siberian Association attended in-depth training at BSA National Headquarters.

In late 1995, a new BSA Project Director was named to give leadership to the Siberian Initiative. Over the next several years, he will spend approximately half his time in Russia. He finished his first visit in April, 1996 and returned to Russia in June.

BSA-Russia Exchange

The president of the Siberian Association of Scouts accompanied three leaders and sixteen Scouts to the 1993 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia in August.

In 1994, Philmont Scout Ranch, the Northern Frontier National High Adventure Programs, and the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base each hosted a patrol of Russian Scouts from the Siberian Association. The patrols visited in the homes of local Scouts near each of the high-adventure bases. SibAS leaders participated in the International Camp Staff Program exchange in both 1993 and 1994. Exchange programs, pen pal and other interactions have been encouraged.

The First Russian Jamboree

In August, 1994, 124 Scouts and leaders from the B. S. A. attended the First Russian International Jamboree. Scouts and leaders from many countries joined the Russian Scouts in their celebration in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The 2nd Russian Jamboree is planned for the summer of 1997 outside Moscow.

BSA Support for Scouting in Russia
and Eastern Europe

The World Friendship Fund and the United States Foundation for International Scouting have been actively involved in helping to re-establish and strengthen Scouting in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Projects have included:

  • BSA-Russian Youth Exchanges, every summer since 1990.
  • Grant from the U.S. Foundation for International Scouting in support of Eastern European leader training, Cartigny, Switzerland, June 1991.
  • Grant from the World Friendship Fund to produce the Russian Scout Handbook, October 1991.
  • BSA representation at the first Russian Congress to form the Federation of Scouts of Russia, November 1991.
  • Grant from U.S. Foundation for International Scouting to cosponsor, with SA-UK, Russian leader training at Gilwell Park February 1992.

Adapted from the BSA International Division’s "International Update" (1995 Printing), bulletins on the "Siberian Scout Initiative Project" (1993 and 1994), the "1993 International Annual Report" and the "1994 International Annual Report"

History and Traditions of Russian Scouting

National Organization of Russian Scouts (Australia). The National Organisation of Russian Scouts (N.O.R.S.) carries on traditions of Russian Scouting from its foundation in 1909, through its exile from Russia, and to the present day. The Chief Scout of the National Organisation of Russian Scouts in Australia, has written this short history to create an awareness that Russian Scouting remained active for 85 years and that the rebirth of Scouting in Russia is another phase in a long tradition.
Campfire at Pavlovsk: The Park at Pavlovsk was the location of the first Russian Scout campfire on April 30, 1909. It is a special place to Russian Scouts, and today is the site of commemorative gatherings as Russian Scouting seeks its roots. Visit the Palace and the Park and learn something of their history and a Russian Scouting tradition.

Links to Russian Scouting:

Scouting in Russia reports on the activities of the Boy Scouts of America in Siberia and its Siberian Scouting Intitiative. The Americans work primarily with SiBAS, the Siberian Association of Scouts.
SiBAS, the Siberian Association of Scouts supports Scouting east of the Urals with major centers in Omsk, Tomsk, Perm and Irkutsk. (Site Under construction)
Network Russia documents the work of the Scout Association of the United Kingdom and British Scouts in St. Petersburg, Moscow and European Russia. The British are working with several associations. The largest, the Federation of Scouts of Russia (FSR) is based near St. Petersburg. Other organizations in European Russia include, the Union of Moscow Scouts, the St. Petersburg Scout Association, and the Volga Scout Association.
The Scouts de France are active in the Crimea, Ukraine and Belarus. Other European Scouting organizations, including the Danish and Belgian Scout Associations, are contributing to these efforts.
The 1st Russian International Jamboree was held on the shores of Lake Ladoga near St. Petersburg in June, 1994. (Photos by Scott Potter). This site is not currently available.
A Chronicle of Scouting in Eastern Europe and Russia. With the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, Scouting has returned to many lands where it had previously taken root. These pages chronicle the return of former members and the addition of new members to the World Organization of the Scout Movement. They also report the growth of Scouting in the other nations of Eastern Europe. Currently, the "Chronicle" reports on the progress of Scouting in 19 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The Chronicle Home Page provides links to each.
Scouting Along the Silk Road: A Chronicle of Scouting in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Scouting’s emergence in the fabled lands of Central Asia and the Caucasus, including the former Soviet republics, Mongolia and Afghanistan, is chronicled in Scouting Along the Silk Road reporting on the progress of Scouting in 8 countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

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Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1999
Last Modified: 11:40 AM on September 19, 1999