Russian MiniLessons: Summer Camps for Kids and Related Russian Vocabulary

Children at the Artek children's summer camp. Artek was a flagship of the Soviet summer camp system for children. It has been recently renovated and reopended. Photo from RBTH.

The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.

Nearly all schoolchildren in the Soviet era used to go to пионерские лагеря in the summer. Every major предприятие had its own Pioneer camp, where its employees’ children went for vacation in the summer. A child from 7-15 years old could be sent to this kind of camp for one смена, which lasted for 21 days.

In Pioneer camps, день начинался под звуки горна. The children делали утреннюю зарядку and then went to линейка, where they were told what activities they would have during the day. Then everybody went to breakfast, sometimes chanting on the way. After that, there were разнообразные мероприятия на воздухе: игры, прогулки, and походы.

Artek morning excersizes

Morning exercises at Artek, once the USSR’s most prestigious summer camp.

After lunch a тихий час was usually held, but generally children did not sleep, they рассказывали истории or хулиганили, for example, by драться подушками or мазать зубной пастой on the faces of sleeping children. Then children had полдник, and they went to кружки or репетиции. After supper, концерты and дискотеки took place.

Holidays would also be celebrated, such as День самоуправления, when children would take over the camp and run their own activities, and Neptune’s Day, when everyone dressed up as sea creatures and celebrated on a river bank, playing funny games.

Костер marked the end of a session: all the campers got together at the bonfire to петь песни под гитару and печь картошку в золе. The most famous Pioneer camp during the Soviet period was Artek, located in Crimea. Children could apply to go that elite camp, but only those with достижения в учебе, спорте, общественной деятельности were accepted.

In many aspects, Soviet Pioneer camps resembled US boy and girl scout camps and had similar traditions, such as рукоделие, which were mainly practiced by girls in the USSR, спортивные игры, плавание, as well as пение песен. However, гребля на байдарках и каноэ and плетение корзин were not practiced in the Soviet Pioneer camps, unlike in many American camps.

Nowadays, summer camps for children are called летний оздоровительный лагерь. They more closely resemble комфортабельные санатории для детей, with many indoor facilities. They have приключенческие и интерактивные игры, развлекательные мероприятия, and children also often watch a lot of movies.

A new trend in summer camps are языковые детские лагеря, where программы языкового погружения are held. English language camps are the most popular, especially those with носители языка working there as teachers. Children have lessons in such camps in веселый английский, as well compete in викторины, and many other interesting мероприятия.

About the Author

Andrei Nesterov

Andrei Nesterov leads SRAS' Research Services, performing remote archive research and consultations for researchers around the globe. Andrei graduated from Ural State University (journalism) and Irkutsk State Linguistic University (English). He also studied public policy and journalism at Duke University on a Muskie Fellowship and taught Russian at West Virginia University. As a journalist, he has reported in both Russian and English language outlets and has years of archival research experience. He has travelled Russia extensively and penned many stories on the “real Russia” which lies beyond the capital and major cities. Andrei also contributes news, feature stories, and language resources to the SRAS Family of Sites.

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