RUSS is a title you get when in the last of three years in a Norwegian highschool. Well, it is not exactly a title, it is more like a name that students are called when they are getting close to the end of their time at highschool.

As Russ, (yes, that is both sinle and plural) students dress up in different colors depending on what kind of studies they have been doing and party! Red is for accademic studies and such, green is for agriculture studies, blue and black are for some other form of education that come under the definition of Highschool in Norway. The Red-Russ is the most common of these. Students buy special suits, pants, sweaters, overalls etc in their russ-color, and then print their names and whatever else they wish on them (iron them on) in great white letters. Often there will be "naughty" cartoon-drawings like nude women with beer-bottles on them, and white hands with the words "put your hand here" are often found on places that would otherwise be considered private. Caps are verrrry important. They are round, almost flat caps with a smal black front \ brim, and a thin rope or string hanging down from the top with a kind of ball of string in the end. On the front \ brim a name will be printed, some nickname that your friends dicide suits you.

So, what is the big deal about being Russ?
For one you become tighter friends with the people in your class. When all of you run around together wearing the same red uniforms you will feel like a small army, a band of "merry brothers in arms". =o)
It is expected that the Russ will start waterfights with younger students, and that they will wage wars of different kinds on each other through out the year. The climax is the 16. and 17. of May. The 17. is our National Independance Day (We got our freedom in 1814), and the Russ will generally stay up and party and drink from the 16. and throughout the night. (Unfortunately many student flunk on their final exams a few days later because of too much partying in the days before it...)

Many of the Russ will give out cards, like business-cards only they are the color of the Russ and have their picture, name, and some funny quote, motto or comment on them. (Mine said something like: Knowledge is power, but a white lie produces the same effects). Kids in Norway simply LOVE collecting these things.

Another big part of being Russ is collecting "knots" in your hat, or rather in the string on your hat. The different schools agree on certain rules and missions that you must accomplish, and for each one you recieve something to tie to your hat. Examples of missions can be crawling across the street on all four in front of a car, tying your shoelace on the front of a car (Yes, on the car) that has stoped at a red light, bying condoms by only using signlanguage, drinking 15 bottles of beer in one night, smoking in the principals office, and so on. The list is endless, and so is the fun of it all.

So, what more is there to say? With lots of beer, lots of partying (and lots of sex in some instances), I guess one could say that this is the year when norwegian teenagers can behave as if they were back in the 70`s. To be honest, nobody expects the Russ to behave otherwise either...

Russ is a more than century-old Norwegian way of celebrating that school's out.

Traditionally, russ used to be the title young people in Norway got when they finished the gymnasium and got their examen artium degree. They celebrated this with wild parties, and various kinds of pranks and mischief. While doing this, they would dress up in the characteristic "student's cap", which is a round, flat, soft hat, with a short, black, rubbery peak. At the top of it, it has a long (about 45 cm) string attached, at the end of which is a tassel.

Over the years, this characteristic cap has lost its symbolism of being a student (someone who had the right to study, whether s/he did or not), and has become increasingly connected to the wild partying that goes on at the end of gymnasium. In pictures from university immatriculations from the mid-70s one could still see a few students among the crowd with a student's cap on, but most people who are shown this cap today, would identify as a russelue, a russ cap, and not a student's cap.

The pranks and wild partying of the russ was largely accepted in the early days, as it was an opportunity for young people to behave irresponsibly for a while, before going into a job or position where they would have to keep in line for the rest of their lives. In this respect, being a russ was looked upon as similar in purpose to a stag party. The word russ in fact comes from the latin word depositorus, which means "one who lays off [his horns]", the "horns" being a metaphor for youthful impulses and playfullness that had to be acted out and thus removed before entering adult life.

Today, higher education is no longer reserved for the upper class. But the russ tradition has continued and even expanded. The russ uniform has been invented. This single-coloured overall helps making the russ visible in the spring, when school is about to finish. While the celebration in its original version started only after the exams, it has started earlier and earlier each year, until it has stabilized in its present form. Today, it starts around the 1st of May (International Labour Day), climaxes between the evening of 16th of May and morning of 17th of May, and ends in a march on the 17th of May, the Constitution Day of Norway. The actual exams don't start until at least a couple of weeks later...

Their wild behaviour has even been institutionalized via the so-called knot rules. These rules entitle russ who accomplish certain feats or pranks to attach certain objects in the strings of their caps. These differ from school to school, and can be as many as 50 or more. I'll mention some of the most common here, that gives an idea of what today's russ can do to gain popularity among their peers:
  • One knot - being awake for one night.
  • Two knots - being awake for two nights in a row.
  • Three knots - being awake for three nights in a row.
  • Piece of chalk - kissing/dating a teacher.
  • Piece of toilet paper - winding several turns of toilet paper around a teacher's house.
  • Piece of sandwich paper - stealing a teacher's lunch packet.
  • Beer bottle cap - drinking an entire crate of beer (0.33l * 24 bottles = 7.92l) in a 24 hour period.
  • Ice cream stick - bathing in the sea before the 1st of May.
As you can see, most of these are unhealthy, antisocial, or even illegal. In 2002, a school in Tromsø even had to remove a knot rule by request of the police. The russ board had approved of a knot rule that encouraged russ to pretend to rob a local petrol station.

Another thing is that the tradition of russ has spread to many more kinds of school than the old gymnasium, which is now one of the many courses offered in the Norwegian secondary school. Everyone who gets a diploma from one of these courses, whether it is a technical/vocational school, or one that gives admission to colleges and universites, are entitled to become a russ. The russ from different courses are separated by their colour, which is used on their caps, on their overalls, and in most other case that are connected with russhood. These are the colours that I am familiar with, others may be added if I can find more information:

  • Red - the colour of the original russ of the gymnasium. Is considered the default colour of all russ whose exams give admission to universities. Examples: music, dance, and drama, sports, media.
  • Blue - the second-to-oldest russ colour. Russ from the course of economy and administration get this colour.
  • Black - most russ from technical (vocational) colleges. Examples: mechanics, electrical subjects.
  • White - I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I've seen some of these.
  • Green - today, this colour is used by the russ from some agricultural schools. Formerly, this was the colour of the graduates from the realskole, which is roughly equivalent to the last forms of today's ungdomsskole (see below), plus the first form of today's "common subjects", the largest and least specialized of the "red" courses of Norwegian secondary school.
  • Orange - pupils who have finished primary school. Yes, primary school. In some municipalities with no secondary schools, these 15-16-year-olds are allowed to dress up in bright orange garments and engage in a (presumed) lighter version of the wild partying of the older russ. Legal drinking age in Norway is 18 years, but the orange russ can and do get alcohol from their older friends. If you asked me, this practice should be outlawed throughout the entire country. The reason this is not allowed in municipalities with secondary schools, seems to be that the older russ (red, blue, etc.) have a habit of harassing the orange russ. Even in places where there is orange russ, they are watched closely by the police.
  • Pink - this is something of a curiosity. When Norway reformed its primary school from 9 forms to 10 forms, they added one form at the beginning, so that pupils had to start school at the age of six, instead of seven, as before. There was one year of transition before the reform was enacted in full. In this year, all forms from first to ninth would continue as before, while the six year old children were sent to school in what was sometimes called "zeroth form" or simply "the six-year-olds". The next year, all pupils skipped a form, so that children went from e.g. third to fifth form over the summer holiday. Zeroth form was now second form. But before zeroth form came to an end, all the children got little pink russ caps. The pink russ was a one-of-a-kind event, and I have fortunately heard no stories of wild partying and heavy drinking among the zeroth-formers.
  • Other colours - yellow was apparently used for some kinds of vocational schools in earlier times. It is also possible for the russ overalls to be quartered with two colours, although the russ cap must remain in one colour. The two-colour combinations are used for some "middle-of-the-road" cases; for instance, people who go through a special last year of agricultural school with some theoretical subjects can get admission to universities, and therefore wear a quartered red and green overall.

Russ (?), n. sing. & pl.

1.

A Russian, or the Russians.

[Rare, except in poetry.]

2.

The language of the Russians.

 

© Webster 1913.


Russ, a.

Of or pertaining to the Russians.

 

© Webster 1913.

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