The surest sign of spring in Norway, partying students known as russ, popped up early this year and they’re already causing trouble. Police had to break up several loud outdoor gatherings this week, along with some fights, while reports of vandalism and littering were rampant.
The teenagers are supposed to be celebrating the end of 12 years of schooling, before they head off for mandatory military service, higher education, jobs or a free year of roaming the world. Instead, their wild partying, drunkenness and the peer pressure to break all the rules often results in property destruction and injury.
Complaints poured in to police in Asker and Bærum, just west of Oslo, already last weekend, and police were bracing for major partying this weekend as well. The high season for partying russ is May, culminating on Norway’s Constitution Day on the 17th of May, but it all got off to an early start this year.
The russ traditionally run around in red or blue overalls, and drive around in vans and buses painted red or blue equipped with huge sound systems. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that 164 russebusser have been registered this year, up 25 percent over last year and meaning more of them than ever before are rolling on Norwegian roads, blasting their music and doing their best to wake up entire neighbourhoods.
The russ-bus phenomenon earlier was centered in the Oslo and Bærum area but now it’s spread around the country. A steady stream of russ vans was spotted driving south from Fredrikstad last weekend, for example, heading over the border to Sweden where the beer is much cheaper than in Norway.
The russ often spend large sums of money on the party season, some of it earned themselves, some of it provided by their parents. A group of 30 boys in Vestby put up NOK 40,000 each and have spent hours fixing up an old bus and equipping it with a stereo system costing NOK 500,000.
“This will give us great memories,” one of the boys told Aftenposten, admitting they’ve been criticized for using so much money on the project. “But we’ve chosen this style,” he said.
Meanwhile, the city of Oslo is trying to control this year’s russ. The school system has confined use of russ dress to the period from May 1 to May 17, so-called “terror days” are banned, no russ buses or vans are allowed on school property and the city once again is preventing buses and vans in the traditional russ parade that follows the main parade on the 17th of May. The parade may be cancelled altogether.
Police were prepared to mount patrols at the main partying areas around Oslo, at Tryvann and Sørkedalen in Nordmarka, at Huk on Bygdøy and at Kadettangen in Sandvika. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Friday that police were blocking off several large outdoor areas, for example at Fornebu, to prevent the russ from gathering.