Police in Lillehammer and Stavanger were relieved on Sunday when they finally could report a lack of major trouble at the weekend’s huge gatherings of graduating high school students known as “russ.” There were some fights and complaints of noise, but no new rapes or other serious assaults were reported.
Around 13,000 russ from all over southern Norway gathered for a weekend of concerts and partying at an amusement park outside Stavanger on the West Coast, while another 7,000 converged on Lillehammer in the east. Security was especially high, after the annual russ party season began with four reported rapes and some violent clashes between various russ groups.
At Kongeparken in Stavanger, hundreds of police, security guards and volunteers were on hand to maintain order and, as newspaper Aftenposten reported, “try to make sure no one gets raped.” The prospects of sexual assault were high, as the russ themselves are encouraged to obtain various decorations of sorts called knuter (literally, knots, approved by their own national board) for such dubious achievements as drinking an entire bottle of wine in 15 minutes or having sex outdoors. Norwegian media has been filled in recent weeks with horror stories of what that can lead to, not just this russ season but also in seasons past.
Partying that goes too far
More young women now seem to be reporting incidents where their fellow male graduates’ lust for securing knuter, or just seizing an opportunity to behave badly, went too far. The rapes reported just during the first weekend of large russ gatherings, including a major one at Tryvann in Oslo, have sparked public outrage and, in some cases, a backlash against young male russ. Some claimed they’d been yelled at, even spit upon, by passersby when they’ve ventured out alone wearing their characteristic red- or blue overalls. The colourful trousers are the foremost sign of being russ. The trouble can come when they don’t manage to keep them on.
This year’s season started with appeals for better behaviour and respect for young russ women, and with the humanitarian organization Amnesty contributing decals for russ reading Nei er nei (No is no). It didn’t seem to help much initially, and more outrage flared last week over the sexually explicit lyrics of songs written for and sung by russ during their party season. Lyrics that seemed to glorify rape and encourage young women to “act like whores” were denounced by police but defended by their writers who claimed they were meant to be provocative.
After a full week of negative media coverage of the russ, this past weekend seemed to be a turning point of sorts, given the lack of reported assaults and cheering crowds of teenagers having fun. The partying in Stavanger “went well,” Olaug Bjørnsen of the Rogaland Police District told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Sunday. “No one was brought in under arrest during the night, and no serious incidents were reported.”
Aasmund Lund, spokesman for the huge gathering at Kongeparken near Stavanger, said the only incidents he was aware of included some sprained ankles and a few other minor injuries among the 13,000 teens who danced and partied for three days on end. “As far as we know, there hasn’t been any serious trouble,” Lund told NRK. “We’ve had a fantastic weekend and the russ have behaved themselves very well.”
Some cold, rainy weather didn’t put a damper on the outdoor partying in either Stavanger of Lillehammer, where police also reported relatively “well-behaved” russ, many of whom arrived in their lavishly painted buses and vans. “It’s gone relatively well, there’s just been a few real disturbances of the peace,” Arvid Røste of the Gudbrandsdal Police District told NRK. One young man was under arrest, though, after snuffing out his cigarette on the head of a fellow russ and Røste said another young man got into a fight and had a tooth knocked out. He hadn’t filed a police complaint, though.
In the Oslo area, police have reported several fights between groups of russ from west Oslo and Bærum. Other groups of russ, however, were trying to counter the past week’s string of bad news by claiming that they were looking after one another and having just as much fun drinking soda and other non-alcoholic beverages. They even launched their own “decorations,” awarded for pouring out the contents of 10 cans of beer held by other consenting russ, or encouraging the russ’ national board to drop their own “knots” that are potentially dangerous.