‘Russ’ season bursts into swing

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They’re back. Red- and blue-overall-clad graduating high school students known as “russ” have taken to the streets of most Norwegian cities and towns, intent on partying with abandon and causing a certain amount of trouble along the way. New security concerns seem, however, to be taken seriously.

Russ season has descended on Norway once again. PHOTO: Views and News

As this year’s spring russ season churns into full swing, young female russ (roughly pronounced “roose”) are taking some precautions. The graduation celebrations starting this week follow a recent wave of rapes in Oslo, and that’s behind some new “rules” for at at least one group of girls interviewed by newspaper Aftenposten this week.

“Here are the names and number of everyone on our bus,” Katinka Ervig Ledezma told Aftenposten, referring to a list she’s carrying around as the group rides on the specially decorated and equipped busses that are a central element of the russ’ mobile partying. The list is aimed at keeping track of each other, when the partying gets extreme.

Female "russ" may be taking their own safety more seriously this year. PHOTO: Views and News

The girls also have an informal deal that visits to a lavatory, or behind trees at the outdoor parties, will involve three of them at all times. “The school nurse recommended that,” said Trine Smedbøl. It’s not always safe to go to the loo alone, “and if you’re only two and something happens, one would be left alone while the other gets help.”

Police in the Oslo suburb of Asker og Bærum have visited every high school (videregåendeskole) in the area this spring, talking to the graduating russ and warning them to look after each other, especially when the drinking gets intense. The police also are stressing that “laws and regulations also apply to them,” and that they must clean up after themselves at various party locations around town.

It remains to be seen whether the precautions and rules will be carried out, and police are prepared if they’re not. “Experience shows that russ season leads to lots of complaints and reports in to us,” operations leader Per-Ivar Iversen of the Asker og Bærum Police District told Aftenposten. “We don’t want to be negative, though, and we want the russ to have fun.”

Generally that involves partying with loud music thundering from elaborate sound systems mounted on the russ busses. One group from Follo, south of Oslo, however, opted for turning their bus into a rolling art project instead. They hired a British artist to decorate their bus with ultraviolet painting, “because we wanted to be different,” one of the boys told Aftenposten.

As always, debate has gone on in recent weeks over whether the annual russ celebrations should be moved from the period between Easter and exams, until after final exams are over. It’s not easy to change tradition, though, and the partying is already underway for this year.

One russ gathering at Skedsmo in Akershus last week got the season off to a bad start, when a 19-year-old russ was beaten unconscious. An 18-year-old charged with the beating denies having anything to do with it. Ingvild Lund, of the national russ board, told newspaper Dagbladet that she was upset over the incident. “This is not how a russ party is supposed to end,” she told Dagbladet.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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