A troop of Utah County Boy Scouts and leaders begin a trek Wednesday for the camp of a lifetime - in Siberia.
Regional Scouting associations in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia two years ago formed the Federation of the Scouts of Russia, which will hold its first jamboree since Scouting was re-established in 1990.About 1,200 Russian Scouts are expected to set up camp near Perm, a city northeast of Moscow. Groups from Denmark, England, France, Germany and Japan will join them.
The 16 boys and four adults representing the United States formed Troop 591, Utah National Parks Council, especially for the trip. The council hosted five Russian Scouts last summer.
"Because of our involvement with the group last year, we had first shot at providing the delegation if we so desired," said Jack L. Dillon, director of support services. The Boy Scouts of America's international division asked the council to participate. The boys, ages 11 to 17, were selected for the three-week excursion after submitting applications and undergoing interviews. Each Scout worked to earn $1,650 for the trip.
"We're excited to go," said Adam McDaniel, 16, of American Fork, the troop's senior patrol leader. "That will be a great experience to mingle with Scouts from six different countries."
The Scouts plan to help their Russian counterparts earn merit badges for first aid, pioneering, orienteering and citizenship in the nation. The Russians - three boys, a girl and a female leader - who visited Utah and Washington, D.C., last summer took a particular interest in American democracy.
"That's why we decided to teach citizenship in the nation, because of their interest in our form of government," said patrol leader Dennis Gammon, 16, of Vineyard. "We figured we'd have to use an interpreter on citizenship in the nation, but the others we can basically show them." One of the adult leaders, Robert Lawton, speaks Russian. Troop members took courses in Russian the past two months and also camped together.
McDaniel said he's looking forward to exchanging information with Russian Scouts. "I personally think I'm going to learn a lot more than I'm going to teach."
Another patrol leader, Jeff Bledsoe, 15, of Provo, said he doesn't know what to expect when the troop reaches Siberia.
"The only real concern I have is whether the government is going to change while we're over there," said Bledsoe, who will receive his Eagle award in a ceremony at the Russian camp.
Russia's move away from communism and the dismantling of the Soviet Union allowed the re-establishment of Scouting. The program began in Russia in 1909 and grew rapidly after Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Boy Scouts, visited Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1910. Scouting was officially disbanded in 1917 and remained so until 1990 when the World Organization of the Scout Movement began receiving inquiries from Russian adults.
There were approximately 7,000 Scouts in Russia as of 1991. Identifiable units stretching from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok numbered 40.