Norway’s notorious high school seniors known as “russ” have landed in trouble this summer, after exporting their rowdiness and rivalries to holiday spots in the Mediterranean. Hotel, restaurant and bar owners on the Greek islands of Kos and Ios have had their fill of young Norwegians “who feel they have a right to do what they want” while police both abroad and at home are trying to rein them in.
Around 1,000 Norwegians entering their last year of high school have traveled in packs to Ios just during the past week. Local residents told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that there’s never been as much trouble tied to the Norwegian youth as they’ve experienced this year.
The russ (roughly pronounced “roose”) start their partying early in the day and carry on until well after midnight. Their consumption of alcohol has been branded as “extreme,” and led to street fights and violence that’s plaguing the local community and other visitors. Franky Vadis, who has run the Mojito Bar on Ios for 20 years, said the situation has veered out of control in recent years.
“All they do is drink and party,” Vadis told NRK. He said that local residents mutter that the Norwegian teenagers “have no shame,” and that “their parents should think twice before sending their kids here.” Even though many are over the legal age of 18, they reportedly resemble badly behaved children. “We’ve always had lots of youth coming to this island, but the problem is that they seem younger and younger,” Vadis said.
Vandalism and disturbing the peace
Hotel owners have reported how the Norwegian russ have vandalized hotel rooms and disturbed other guests, night after night. Andreas Santorinakhs, who runs the La Luna Hotel in central Ios, said he’s always had good relations with the young Norwegians “but this year has been absolutely extreme. All the hotels have noticed it. When there are so many of them, they feel they can do what they want. They arrange big parties in their hotel rooms and make lots of noise. If this continues, I won’t have the Norwegians at my hotel any longer.”
He said that four young women who were staying at his hotel checked out three days early: “They didn’t feel safe because of what’s happened. I’ve never experienced that before.”
It’s already been reported that 10 young Norwegian males were arrested and jailed late last month on the island of Kos, while another had both legs broken in a brawl on Ios over the weekend, and five more Norwegians were arrested. René Schwarzgruber, who arranges hotels, transport and parties for the Norwegian russ on Ios, told NRK that after this summer, his firm will spread their arrivals over more weeks, “to avoid problems when so many come at the same time.”
Police don’t think that’s enough. Johan Benitez of the Oslo Police District said on NRK’s national nightly newscast Dagsrevyen Monday that the wild russ who land in jail in Greece can also face punishment once they come home. He said that they can risk losing the right to drive their russ buses, which serve as mobile party units in Norway and hit the streets between Easter and the 17th of May. Police officer Ann-Gørild Kjeldsen said the Oslo police have contacted state crime unit Kripos to find out who was involved in the various violent episodes reported in recent weeks. Punitive action depends, however, on the charges filed by Greek police and whether the evidence will hold up in a Norwegian court.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday that much of the weekend violence on Ios is tied to conflicts between russ attending the Eikeli high school in Bærum, just west of Oslo, and the Roald Amundsen high school in Oppegård. The two schools are known to have rival buses, and some angry exchanges of words on Ios escalated into a mob that chased one 18-year-old who fell over a ledge and then was kicked and beaten by the mob as he lay on the ground. Five people were arrested shortly afterwards, but later released from Greek police custody.
Parents urged to take control
Police in Oslo and Oppegård, along with several commentators and psychologists, were calling on parents to rein in their teens, even if they’re 18 and saved up for the trips themselves. “It scares me that parents would allow their 17-year-old, or even an 18-year-old, on these trips when they know there will be extreme drunkennes and drugs involved,” Rune Fossum of the Øst Police District, which includes Oppegård, told Aftenposten. Some russ have claimed that drugs can or have been put in drinks, making the situation worse.
“This all resembles a small town brawl, an old-fashioned form of masculinity when it boosted your status to look tough and unafraid,” Willy Pedersen, who has conducted research on russ violence, told NRK. “Most of the girls think it’s stupid, but at the same time, the boys can be viewed as fearless and crazy.”
One 18-year-old who wasn’t identified told NRK that “this could have happened at home in Norway, too. It’s sad that (the violence) is painting a negative picture of the russ in general who traveled. We have felt safe and had lots of fun.”
Dag Brustad, principal at the high school in Bærum, said he was leaving it to police to pursue the Eikeli students who got in trouble in Greece. “We are most concerned about the student who was injured, because he’ll certainly have some problems in the time ahead,” Brustad said. The principal at the high school in Oppegård, Elisabeth Edding, told Aftenposten she did not want to comment on the incidents.