Graduation in Norway since 1700s

At one point in most young Norwegians lives, there comes a time were they suddenly wear red overalls and drink – a bit too much.

The period between the 1st and the 17th of may is a time for Upper Secondary students, who have all turned 18, to celebrate their graduation. A little bit early.


Hide your kids, protect whatever is yours; “Russen” is here!

Basically, May is a month of fun and rebellious actions. Being a Russ give you an excuse to do stupid things, like drink on a normal week day, show up in class hungover, sit under the desk during a lecture, cause traffic problems, puke and pee outdoors, switch town-signs and steal cinema posters.

To become a Russ you need:IMG_5919

  • A red overall
  • Russ cards
  • Russ hat
  • A whistle
  • A fluffy jumper (Nice to have if you end up sleeping in a ditch)
  • Some cool stickers to put on your overall
  • A marker people can write or draw on your overall with

If you have all this, you are good to go!

On the other hand, if you wanna take it even further there are things to add to the list:

  • A Russ group to share the fun with
  • A name for the Russ group (DangeRuss is a popular choice)
  • A big red Chevrolet to drive around and drink in (Pussywagon is also a popular choice if you are lucky enough to share a van with your group)
  • Loads of alcohol
  • Condoms (Just to be sure?)
  • An air-horn
  • Sunglasses (Hangover protection)
  • A parka with your name on (In case sleeping in the ditch becomes a thing)

Now, you are ready!

If you have not yet noticed, there is one very important thing to add to the list…



It is not like the basic essentials, as well as the van,
will come out of nowhere. This is why loads of Russ-
groups start saving up money early. Some start the first year of Upper Secondary, whilst others are more
relaxed and wait until their final year.

Selling toilet-paper is very popular, and there will always be someone on your door a few months before May. “Support the Russ!”

Support what? Your alcohol income?

Do not misunderstand, there are loads of sober Russ, there are also those who call themselves for “The Walking Russ” or similar. The party factor that has been given to Russen, is something that has developed slowly since the beginning. In fact, Norwegians have celebrated the time of Russ since early 1700s.

Fun fact: “Russ” comes from the latin phrase cornua depositurus, that decribes the action of “taking off your horns”.

In the early 1700, Norway did not have Universities. All Norwegians had to pass one exam to be able to go to University in Denmark, and after they finished they were given a horn of which had to be stuck to their foreheads. Thus, older university students would make fun of them until they got their results. If they passed, the horn would be taken off as a sign of wisdom. This action later on created the word Russ.

As time went by, all the students who passed their exams wanted to celebrate properly. Up until now there have been various ways of celebrating, but the modern way is driving these big red vans, drink and sing.


/Borrowed from Wikipedia/

As you can see, the Russ uniform has changed drastically since 1915. Oh, the sticks they have in their hand used to be a traditional part of being Russ, we switched them out with Russ-cards.

In a Russ-card you would have a picture of yourself, a funny quote, your number if you’d like, your address (most people just write stupid things instead) and your name of course. They are pretty useless, but kids love to collect them. They basically hunt you down every day. Saying “sorry I’m empty” suddenly becomes a normal thing.

I remember sitting in my group’s van, looking over at a group of kids, and as we got eye contact they all started running towards us. I was scared, to say the least. Suddenly I found myself in a scene of The Walking Dead with kids banging on our door. They started chanting “RUSSEKORT RUSSEKORT RUSSEKORT”, which means Russ-cards. It was terrifying, I tell you.

There are also kids who like to mess with us, spraying water, egg, oil, pee, whatever they can find, on us and our cars. This has resulted in many Russ kidnapping kids, driving them home to their parents, or taping them to a lamppost.

As a Russ you are also baptized the night before the first of May, and you will then be given a nickname that your friends have chosen for you. Mine was “Sparrow”. This name is written across the cap of your hat, so everyone can see. It is not a normal baptism, but more of a splash-wine-in-your-face kind of baptism.


My Russ-group’s van “Wheels of norway”

So,  it is 17 days of doing weird things to earn “knots” on your Russ hat, drinking (or not), no sleep, lots of laughter, lots of petrol, and lots of fun.

I remember my own time as a Russ as very fun, I especially liked not having to change my clothes (if you wash your overall, someone are entitled to cut off one of the legs on it). Chasing first and second years with water pistols was also very fun, and never have I ever felt as feared before.

I can only imagine the parents and teachers feelings now as the first of May is coming up! Time to hide!




3 thoughts on “Graduation in Norway since 1700s

  1. hehehe!! 😀


  2. I first learned about Russen through Lilyhammer and it’s hysterical to read it is actually accurate!


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