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Friday, April 19, 2024

‘Russ’ partying ‘out of control’

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is cracking down on Norway’s high school graduation party season known as russ. Alarmed over how pornography, drugs and enormous amounts of money have infiltrated traditional celebrations, he’s ordering changes in how and when the partying can begin and be carried out.

Groups of russ (roughly pronounced “roose”) have become best known for wild partying inside and outside a bus that they’ve decorated and equipped with loud stereo systems at great expense. Then they choose who’s invited to enter their mobile party bus, leaving many to feel excluded. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

“I’ve been a russ (graduating senior) myself and they must of course be allowed to celebrate,” Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), “but there’s been a development here that we need to deal with, and that’s all the exclusion and commercial pressure now tied to the russ season.”

Støre was among many reacting to how one elaborate party bus financed by a group of male russ in Bryne this year was painted with allegedly pornographic scenes including one that suggested rape. Sexual assault has also become a major problem in recent years and the group behind the bus was even reported to police.

No further charges were filed, though, because police couldn’t find any specific legal violation. The teenagers behind the bus claimed they “respect and value women as much as all others” and had no intention of demeaning women, but were nonetheless “extremely satisfied” with their bus. The mother of one of them objected publicly to their artwork, though, and urged them to paint over it.

“Russ” partying around their elaborately decorated buses during an outdoor gathering in Oslo. PHOTO: NewsinEnglish.no/Morten Møst

“As a father and a grandfather, I react strongly against (the so-called “porno-bus”) because it underscores the sexualizing of the russ season,” Støre told newspaper VG. He stressed that many other russ don’t like the sexual pressure either, while his education minister Kari Nessa Nordtun noted that the bus was most likely meant to provoke and shock others.

“We understand the desire to celebrate the end of 13 years of school,” Støre said, “but russ celebrations have spun out of control. Now they’re stained by exclusion, group pressure, commercial pressure and it’s all become a burden for many young people. That must change.”

The prime minister has thus asked his ministers in charge of education, transport and family issues to act on measures that include moving the celebration period (which most recently has run from early spring until Norway’s Constitution Day on the 17th of May) until after the examination period in June. It had been moved several years ago until prior to exams, in the hopes that would restrain partying, but that didn’t happen.

Local governments are also being asked to develop a national strategy and action plan that would contribute to more “inclusive” partying. Many graduating teens don’t have the financial resources to join bus groups, excursions and major events like concerts and the opening of amusement parks exclusively for partying russ.

Transport officials are also exploring the possibility of forbidding use of seating along the sides of the bus’ interior for any not used in public transport. They’re also pondering a ban on allowing passengers on a private bus to stand while the bus is in motion, again to make the use of a bus for partying less attractive.

The government will also sharpen regulation of commercial firms catering to the russ. They’ve come to include everything from bus design and renovation services to production and sale of the overalls used by partying russ, drivers for a bus and organizers of major (and often expensive) events like concerts and trips abroad for wild partying on islands in the Mediterranean.

None of the measures can be put into place until next year at the earliest or 2026, but it’s a start, Støre noted. “We just want to make the russ season more inclusive,” Støre said, so that it can be safer and more fun for more graduating teens, also from families with modest incomes who can’t afford to be part of a bus group or fly off for partying abroad.

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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