:"This article is about Russ, the Scandinavian cultural phenomenon. For other meanings, see Russ (disambiguation)."

Russ is a tradition and cultural phenomenon in Norway. Students who graduate from upper secondary school are called "russ" and celebrate with the characteristic festivities ("russefeiring") during the first few weeks of May. In Sweden, a similar celebration is called "Studenten" ("the student"). In Finland students celebrate the start of the final test in a similar tradition called penkkarit. Also in Denmark graduation from high school ("studentereksamen") is celebrated in similar ways as in Norway, including the wearing of caps in different colours and riding in open trucks, while the Danish term "rus" refers to first-year college students. There are many local variations of the "russefeiring" but the spirit of the celebration remains uniform across the country; it is a symbol of breaking free from the necessary shackles handed down by parents intended for the young generation's well-being and protection. It is a rite of passage, an abrupt way of ending childhood and of entering into adulthood, but it also marks accomplishing high school. The spirit of the russe-celebration represents exactly what Nobel Prize laureate in literature Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson tries to convey in the poem "Jeg velger meg April".


The word "rus" is believed to come from Latin "cornua depositurus" 'bound to put aside one's horns', in the sense of "going to sow one's wild oats" [] . In Norwegian, an extra "s" is added according to Norwegian spelling rules (double consonants after short vowels, even at the end of a word), which avoids confusion with the word "rus" (with a long vowel), which means "intoxication". In Danish, the two words are spelled the same way.


The tradition goes back to the 1700s, at a time when no universities existed in Norway, and Norwegians would attend the University of Copenhagen to study alongside Danish students. To be enrolled at the university, students had to pass the "Examen Artium". After completing their examinations, horns were placed on their foreheads and they were ridiculed by older students. When the results from the exams were ready, the students would participate in a ceremony called "Examen Depositiones", in which they were called up to the examinator: if they had passed the test, their horns would be removed, as a sign of wisdom and subjugation of the wild animal within. From then on, the young persons had the right to call themselves students.

The modern Norwegian "russ" tradition dates back to 1905, when the red "russ" caps were introduced. The caps were initially only used by boys, and were inspired by German students, who in 1904 wore red caps when they visited Norway. In 1916, blue caps were introduced at the "Oslo Handelsgymnasium", a high school specializing in economics.

The tradition of celebrating enrollment at a university is today continued in Denmark, but the former rituals or ceremonies are no longer practiced. Danish college students during their first week have "rus" festivities ("rusuge"), which in recent years mostly consist of a few parties where new students can get to know each other.

In Norway the tradition has been, for about a century, to celebrate the end of 13 years of school. The "russ" festivities ("russefeiring") in Norway, which can last several weeks, are today a much more important event than the "rusuge" for new students in Denmark.

However, this does not mean that Danish youths do not celebrate the end of secondary education. In Denmark—as in Sweden—after completion of the student exam ("studentereksamen"—the Danish equivalent of the U.S. high school degree) the tradition is now to celebrate the end of secondary education by driving about either in a lorry or a horse and cart, and take part in festivities amongst the families of the graduating students. These celebrations often also go on for several days or weeks.

Today in Norway

The festivities officially starts somewhere between the 21st of April to the 1st of May, and last until 17th of May, which is the Norwegian Constitution Day (National Day of Norway). On that day, they commonly celebrate with their own parades. The final exams are placed after May 17, however. Those who fail might even become "russ" again the year after. (In earlier years, exams were held ahead of May 17, but they were moved in an attempt to reduce the extensive "russ" celebrations, with little luck.)


There are several different types of "russ"; differing in colour of their caps and traditional uniforms (which most students carry during the entire "russ" period).

*Red (rødruss):"Allmennfag" (general studies) (mathematics, physics, biology, history, literature, English etc); media and communication, art, music, dance and drama; and athletics. This is by far the most common color.
*Blue (blåruss):"Allmennfag" (with economics)
*Black (svartruss):Vocational courses (like electronics or carpentry). Since Norwegian vocational studies consist of 2 years of schooling and 1 or 2 years of apprenticeship, black russ can choose to celebrate a year earlier than the others or to celebrate in multiple years. Some red russ choose black in order to stand out.
*Green (grønnruss):Agricultural courses, but is also used by some as an alternative to orange "russ"
*White (hvitruss):In some regions, white russ can be athletics students or healthcare students. In other regions, sober Christians might use this colour, but in most regions they wear the same colours as their classmates. Christian "russ" might form their own groups to have fun together without peer pressure towards alcohol, sex and drugs.
*Miscellaneous:Sometimes children in the last year of kindergarten call themselves "pink "russ" ("rosaruss"), or girls become pink "russ" and boys become light blue "russ". In some places, children in the last year of middle school ("ungdomsskolen") become "orange "russ" ("oransjeruss"). None of these have any real relation to the "russ" celebrations, though. These celebrations have not become very common so far.

The "russ" wear uniforms with their respective colours. Attached to the cap is a tassel at the end of a string, in which they tie knots, often around various items that are rewards for completing assignments listed on the "russ knot list". This cap is seldom used before the "russ baptism", which is usually held during the night to May 1.


The "russ knot list" was first introduced in the 1940s. The Russ knots, comparable to badges, is a common name for a wide variety of trophies symbolizing fulfilling a certain accomplishment during the festivities. There are a plethora of local knot rules for earning knots, as well as local variations for the same type of knot. The knot itself often consist of an item representing the accomplishment. For instance, passing through the back seat of a car stopping on a red light earns you a piece of wrapping from the sweet Menthos (based on a popular television advertisement). These knots are then knitted and strung along the line extending from the russ' hat, hence the name knot.

The knot rules are sometimes criticized because they can involve illegal acts, such as public nudity or public sexual intercourse, outright assault and possibly self-harming actions, such as consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time (earns a beer cap, or wine cork). Other more benign tasks exist, such as putting a "for sale" sign on a police car, kissing a person of the same sex (pink feather), or spending the night at a teacher's house and making him/her breakfast in the morning, all without being noticed. In total, there are about 101 different tasks that can be performed to receive knots, with huge varieties between districs and individual schools. (

Here are a few russ knot examples.

* Having sex outdoors or in the forest (earns a pine cone or stick)
* Having sex with an underclassmen (earns a pacifier)
* Spending a night in a tree (earns a stick from the tree)
* Eating a Big Mac in four bites (earns a piece of the box it comes in)
* Buying condoms or tampons using only sign language (earns a piece of the item bought)
* Drinking a bottle of wine in 20 minutes (earns the wine cork)
* Crawling through a super market while barking and biting customers' legs (earns a dog biscuit)
* Spending a school day crawling on hands and knees (earns a toy shoe)
* Spending the entire russ period sober (earns a fizzy drink cork)

Vans (Russebiler) and buses (Russebusser)

In the older days russ often travelled around in an open lorry, either used as-is or with a do-it-yourself hut added to the cargo area. Today it is common for several friends to join together to buy a "russ" car (mostly small cities and densely populated areas), or a bus (primarily in the larger cities and the surrounding areas), painted in their respective "russ" colour. It is usual to paint with paint used for wood, but some have their car professionally sprayed and add vinyl decals to it.Russ vehicles bought on the cheap have a reputation for being in terrible technical condition. Inexperienced and intoxicated drivers, and in some cases even highly flammable moonshine, have contributed to fatal traffic accidents and fires in these vehicles. The Norwegian police take part in a concerted effort to improve the situation. Those russ that acquire a bus will usually hire a professional bus driver for the duration of the celebration, while van drivers might be an older sibling, friend, or a "russ" who chooses to abstain from alcohol.

In the "russ" vehicle, modern tradition requires an expensive stereo inside the vehicle, and on buses, also on the roof (the largest systems allowed can have forty speakers which can generate over sixty thousand watts and be among the best sound systems in the world). Some buses have had over 60 speakers. Other accessories include bus sweaters, bus lighters/key strings, bus caps and a bus song. It is also common to have some sort of theme for the interior and name/concept. Many buses have expensive theme interior, sometimes a bar, and plenty of flat-screens. A party light system can also be found in some buses.

These buses are a large financial burden; contributions of up to $30,000 (with today's rate in kroner/dollar) per member have occurred. However, the average is between $2000 and 6000 per member. Including sponsors, the budget on buses can reach over 2,000,000 norwegian kroner, or ca. $400,000 or even more.

There are a lot of russ that will use a lot of money during the russ festivities, mostly on the van/bus but also on clothes, effects, parties (there are special arrangements for russ all over the country) and alcohol. But most people try to buy a cheap van together with friends. Often a van that has been used as a russ-van will be sold on to the next generation of russ and so they will keep the cost down and have the opportunity to get back the money they have spent on it. A lot of russ with cheap vans looks down on russ with over-expensive buses. Most russ has the impression that the russ festivities should only be fun and sees the russ van both as a symbol as well as a practical way of getting around.

The russ van is what takes the most planning and work. First you have to find a theme for the bus, that should be reflected both in the name of the bus, the interior and sometimes the outside as well. Then most will try getting sponsors whose names gets written onto the russ van together with the colour of the russ inside and other decorations. The interior is sometimes a lot of work, involving rebuilds or other major tasks (with or without expenses) - others are very simple.

Even the russ themselves were shocked by a 2004 deal where an all girls bus agreed to participate in a pornographic film to pay for some of the costs for the bus; it was unclear whether the girls were only supposed to be extras or if two of the girls would also perform sex acts. After the deal became known, the girls withdrew from the agreement but the pornographer claimed to have deals with others. []

Cards (Russekort)

Most "russ" have personalized calling cards featuring their name, their photograph and a short slogan. These cards are swapped with other "russ" and handed out to children or family members; for many children, collecting huge amounts of "russ" cards is an important activity during May, culminating on May 17.

Newspapers (Russeavis)

In order to finance some of the administrative costs and/or other causes, many high schools create "russ" newspapers that contain fake news, a few words from the "russ" president, the official knot rules for the specific high school, etc. The most important feature of a "russ" newspaper, however, is a section that presents every class and every student with a photograph and a personalized biography, typically written by one or more friends, and always in a jocular and satirical style. The class may also write a similar entry on their main teacher; the teacher, in turn, writes about their class.The Russ' newspaper is written and published by Russ' executive board (Russens Hovedstyre).


While the "russ" tradition is exclusive to graduating students, "russ" impersonation has in recent years become a problem as non-students, or students who are otherwise ineligible, wish to participate in the festivities. It is a testament to the popularity and allure of the tradition that some "russ" attempt to take part several years in a row.

In order to get in on the bigger festivals arranged for the russ (such as Tryvann or Kongeparken) one must have a kind of identification card that shows you really are a russ this year.

ee also

*Studenten, literally "the student", the Swedish and Danish equivalents.
* The student cap, which is worn by Swedish and Danish graduating students and can be of many different colours, depending on the type of education received.

External links

* [ The Norwegian Way. A photographic book by photographer Jørn Tomter who photographed the russ celebration during the years 2003-2007]
* [ An article about "russ" from Aftenposten English]
* [ Another article about "russ" from Aftenposten English]
* [ - Russ' official site (in Norwegian)]
* [ Russ' executive board (Russens Hovedstyre) (in Norwegian)]
* [ - Russ portal and community (in Norwegian)]

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