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Digital Archive International History Declassified

1959

REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE SOVIET EXHIBITION IN MEXICO YEAR 1959

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    Report describing an exhibition hosted in Mexico City on Soviet technical and cultural achievements and the response of Mexican visitors.
    "Report on the Work of the Soviet Exhibition in Mexico Year 1959," 1959, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Russian State Archive of the Economy, f. 635, op. 1, d. 392, ll. 1-12. Obtained and translated for CWIHP by Vanni Pettina. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/122362
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REPORT

on the work of the Soviet exhibition in Mexico

Year 1959

I. The purposes and tasks of the exhibition, a short description of the exposition, the Mexican visitors’ interest towards the exhibition, and remarks.

The Soviet exhibition in the city of Mexico was organized by agreement between the governments of both countries, it was held in the foyer and one of the additions to the capital’s “National Auditorium” theatre situated in the picturesque Chepultapec Park, which were allotted to house it. Large-sized machines, vehicles and tractors were exhibited in the open space in front of the theatre. The total area of the exhibition amounted to 8,000 sq. m, including б,000 sq. m indoors.

After the war the Soviet Union participated in exhibitions in Latin America three times: in 1946 – in the International Books Exhibition in Mexico, in 1955 and 1957 – in industrial exhibitions in Argentina. But the exhibition in Mexico in 1959 was the first Soviet exhibitions in Latin American countries, which provided extensive coverage of a wide variety of the sides of the Soviet state’s life.

Officially the exhibition was opened on November 21, 1959 by the First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR A. I. Mikoyan, and functioned till December 15, 1959.

The exhibition consisted of 12 main sections, which acquainted Mexicans widely with the Soviet Union's achievements in the spheres of economy, engineering and culture, growth of the working people's well-being, and also with the tremendous prospects of further development of the USSR’s national economy.

There were approximately 6,000 exhibits presented. They were mostly the exhibits that had been demonstrated in 1959 at the Soviet Exhibition of the Achievements in Science, Engineering and Culture in New York. As for new exhibits, several metal-cutting machines were delivered to Mexico, agricultural and road-building machines, tractors, trucks, an exploration oil drilling truck, motorcycles, motor scooters and some other samples of the national machine-building industry, which were of some interest for us from the commercial point of view.

The vast majority of the exhibited machines, equipment, instruments, and also of models and miniatures of industrial installations and scientific instruments were demonstrated in operation. The exposition was supplemented with film projection units at display stands to show short-length films, which explained the visitors in more detail what was not always possible to express completely with full-scale mock-ups only.

Most of the complicated miniatures and models were accompanied with explanations of mechanical narrators in Spanish, with the total number of earphones and microphones over 200 pieces. The use of those mechanical sound devices did not only facilitate the specialists’ work but also made many things more accessible and comprehensible for the visitors.

The foyer of the “National Auditorium” theatre was not very convenient in the capacity of an exhibition space because of its complicated internal architectonics. In spite of that, the general composition of the exhibition turned out to be effective enough, both in terms of its decorative appearance and in the context of viewing it and the visitors’ passing through it.

The introductory part of the exhibition introduced the visitors to the principles of the political order and the form of government of our country, its geography and population, to the key factors characterizing the huge growth of the economy and culture of the Soviet Union compared to the pre-revolutionary Russia, to the questions of the domestic and foreign policy of our state, to the prospects of its further development. In addition to the illustrative material, here there were also such exhibits as mechanized and light maps of the industry and electrification of the USSR, models of passenger airplanes, a large panel picture with general information about our country, a painting by Serov telling about the first pages of the Soviet state’s history, a display of photographs about N. S. Khruschev’s stay in the USA, materials on the Soviet Union’s foreign trade, and so on.

The central place in the exhibition was occupied by the exposition demonstrating the Soviet Union’s successes in exploration of outer space, which spoke especially convincingly about the boundless creative abilities of socialism. Full-scale mock-ups of artificial earth satellites, of the container with scientific instruments launched towards the Moon, of the last stage of a space rocket, and other exhibits were demonstrated. The latest achievements of the USSR in this sphere were reflected in the corresponding photodocumentary materials.

There was a particularly profound interest for this exhibition. From early morning and till the closing of the exhibition, the stands with the satellites were always surrounded with a crowd that listened with great attention to the explanations broadcasted through the microphone by the mechanical narrator.

The Mexicans were simply amazed in the face of those greatest creations of the mankind.

Besides the materials about exploration of outer space, the section devoted to scientific achievements also displayed a number of the Soviet scientists’ works that had great practical and theoretical importance, for Mexico in particular. Some researches in the area of geological and geographical sciences, oceanography, telemechanics and automatics were presented. The exhibits included: geologic maps and a tectonic map, collections of rocks, among which there were ores with rather high content of useful minerals, models of natural and artificial crystalline formations, telemechanic non-contact devices for automatic monitoring and control of oil pipelines, electrical power systems and so on. Here the unique superspeed camera (“Time Magnifier”) with capacity of 32 mln frames per second was also displayed.

The section attracted especially much attention of the Mexican specialists from the Polytechnic Institute, the University and some companies of the mining industry and oil industry. This owes, to some extent, to the specific nature of Mexico’s economy where oil production, mining engineering and the cycle of sciences related to them are well-developed.

The exposition displaying the main direction of peaceful application of atomic energy in the Soviet Union was presented quite in a full and interesting way. More than 30 large exhibits and extensive photodocumentary materials were demonstrated, which reflected the issues of atomic power engineering, physical and thermonuclear studies, appliance of radioactive isotopes, and so on. The exhibits included such ones as: miniatures of nuclear power plants, of the synchrophasotron, of industrial particle accelerators, of the “Alpha” thermonuclear machine, the “Lenin” icebreaking ship, etc.

The attendance of this section was exceptionally high, the visitors were interested in everything: the constructional details of nuclear reactors, the technical and economic parameters of nuclear power plants, the operational principles of thermonuclear machines, and the prospects of development of this field of science. The visitors’ interest in the problems of nuclear technology and science provides evidence of great popularity of the subject and the visitors’ curiosity.

Around the stand of the artificial earth satellites there were exhibits and artistic posters on the seven-year plan, which gave a colorful insight into the power of the Soviet industry: the line of high-productive, mostly automated, metal-cutting machines, the miniature of a part of the standard iron-and-steel works (enterprises of such type produce over 70% of cast iron and steel in the USSR), the model of the 4-groove installation for continuous casting of steel (such installations in life-size allow for making one of the most labor-intensive processes of steel fabrication a flow-line production), the miniature of the powerful chemical plant in Sumgait producing technical rubber, miniatures and some types of equipment of oil fields with demonstration of the most progressive methods of oil production, the miniature of one of the standard thermal power plants with capacity of 1,200,000 kW, and also a full-scale specimen of the unique mercury rectifier, which is applied in the Soviet Union for transfer of high voltage direct current for long distances.

Despite the comparatively small number of exhibits giving coverage to the achievements of our heavy industry, this section has altogether attracted also great attention both from ordinary visitors and from specialists.

As for lathes, there was especially big interest for the electric impulse machine, the ultrasound machine, and the “525” type tooth-cutting machine for bevel gear cutting. At that, not only the high technical parameters of the lathes were remarked but also their fairly good exterior appearance.

In the oil industry’s exposition the most attention was attracted by the equipment for dual-hole drilling and edge water flooding, turbo drills, and also the seismic station. In the sphere of energy production, the greatest interest of the specialists was aroused by the mercury rectifier and by direct-current power transmission. There were requests from the visitors for technical literature on those issues. And a representative of one of Venezuelan companies asked for assistance in designing a standard station and for supplying gas turbines for it.

High praise of the visitors was earned by the industrial miniatures in that section, which amazed everyone with the exceptional level of excellence and trueness of their execution.

The machine-building industry was represented in the exhibition, except for the lathes demonstrated indoors, also by passenger cars and trucks, agricultural and road-building machines, tractors, coal miners, which were exhibited for public inspection in the open area. There were up to 72 exhibits of the machine-building industry altogether.

Here the visitors’ attention was attracted first of all by the passenger cars, especially the fuel-efficient ones: “Moskvich 407” and “423N”, “Volga”, which may be due apparently to the comparative low taxes on cars of this type in Mexico. The trucks did not get so much attention from the public.

The road-building machines were interesting mostly for specialists, and many of them found that our bulldozers, for example, were not only as good as the American ones, great numbers of which had been brought into Mexico, but even better than those. There were favorable opinions about the crane drilling machine demonstrated by us.

But the longest time was spent by the visitors in front of the coal-mining machines. The three coal miners (PKG-3, K-26, Donbass), which were demonstrated in operation, caused sincere admiration at the originality of their design, appearance and performance, which made the miners’ hard work much more easier.

But on the whole, the exhibits of the machine-building industry demonstrated in an open area were inspected by the public with much less interest than the other sections of the exhibition. It ought to be noted that in general, as practice shows, machines attract more attention at exhibitions of such type when they comprise an integral part of the exposition of some section, are exhibited as an illustration of some subject, than if they are demonstrated separately.

In the agriculture section we intended to show first of all that at the present time the socialist agriculture is a large, highly mechanized public industry that provides the peasant population with infinite possibilities for growth of their material well-being and level of culture. The exposition included

photodocumentary and numerical information, wax models and other exhibits demonstrating the achievements of the public economy of collective farms and state farms in the sphere of production of grain, cotton, vegetables, livestock products and so on. The exposition also included portraits of innovators and heroes of the agricultural industry, and a mechanized miniature of the collective farm in Kalinovka village of Kursk Oblast with demonstration of its past and present. A crowd of people could always be observed at this miniature that demonstrated the many advantages of the collective structure very vividly – so great was the foreign visitors’ desire to learn about the life of our peasant population.

Up to 22 agricultural machines and tractors were demonstrated in an open area, they were mostly new models: the driving chassis “SSh635” and “SSh30”, the tractors “Belarus-MTZ- 50”, “Vladimirets T-28Kh”, “Vladimirets T-28M”, “DT-20“, “T-35”, “DT-55”, the tractor-mounted combine harvester “NK-3”, the cotton-harvesting machine “SKhM-48M”, the land-reclamation unit, and so on.

All the tractors were demonstrated with mounted tools. Considering the agrarian character of Mexico, the collection of agricultural machines and equipment was expanded compared to what there had been at our exhibition in New York. Some of the machines were brought from Moscow, and the others from the Soviet exhibition in Saloniki.

There was a special section presenting the national radioelectronics that clearly showed the extraordinarily high level of development of this important branch of technology and science, which provided services to a wide variety of spheres of our country’s national economy and culture. The stands demonstrated electronic accounting machines (intended for solving differential equations, defining modes of metal cutting, studying the human cardiac function), semiconductor facsimile equipment for an automated telephone system, a miniature of an airport with electronic equipment that allowed for accident-free flying-off and boarding of airplanes.

Radio broadcasting equipment was represented by more than 18 types of radio sets and radio-gramophones of various classes including stereophonic systems. There were also 16 types of TV sets demonstrated. The active equipment of the television broadcasting center and the TV sets were used to let the visitors see themselves on the screen.

The greatest attention of the visitors was concentrated on the miniature of the airport and the color television used in medicine (in the section devoted to health care in the USSR). There was also great interest for the compact semiconductor radio sets and TV sets.

Display of the Soviet optics was well organized too. The exhibits in this section were selected with intention, on one side, to arouse interest of the general public for products of the optomechanical industry of the USSR that were easily understandable for ordinary visitors, non-specialists (those included first of all such exhibits as photographic equipment, a large variety of which was demonstrated, photographic optics, binoculars and telescopes, and some microscopes); on the other side, to give a convincing and clear idea of the development and achievements of this technically complicated branch of national economy in the USSR, which had been created only in the Soviet period. The demonstrated samples of large blocks of optical glass, microscopes for a wide variety of types of use, astronomical instruments, unique high-speed motion-picture cameras, and other samples showed that at the present time our optics occupied one of the leading positions in worldwide technology. And this was said by most of the specialists who saw the exhibition.

In the section devoted to construction in the USSR there was a great number of exhibits in the form of three-dimensional posters with photographs, diagrams, miniatures and models, which told the visitors about construction in the USSR, and about the ambitious housing construction program for the period of the seven-year plan. A number of stands and posters illustrated the progressive methods of construction management, and showed the great work on reconstruction and recovery of towns and cities in the USSR destroyed during the war, on construction of new towns and cities, and of large industrial and scientific centers.

Construction-engineering equipment was exhibited in the form of a model of a new tower crane with lifting capacity of tons, a miniature of a plant for continuous-flow type production of structural panels, a miniature with demonstration of metal tanks production out of coils, a miniature of a tunneling machine for the metro, a full-scale specimen of a vibratory hammer, and other equipment. There was also a full-size model of a completely equipped three-room apartment approved for construction in the new apartment buildings in Moscow.

The visitors were particularly interested in the methods of large-scale housing construction in the USSR, and also of construction of subways using a tunneling machine, because these problems occupy an important position in Mexico’s economic plans at the present time.

The exposition of the section devoted to education in the USSR consisted mostly of photodocumentary materials, training aids, a large model of the Moscow University, models and art objects of vocational schools.

There was a huge interest to this exhibition. The visitors examined each stand with much attention, reading every caption; so great was the people’s thirst for education, which was available only to a few in those countries.

A large model of the sports center in Luzhniki compelling constant attention of all the visitors, photographs, and individual specimens of sports equipment were used to describe the organization of the Soviet people’s physical education.

A large exposition was devoted to demonstration of the USSR’s achievements in the sphere of health care for the working people. Factual material was used to tell the visitors about the fundamentals of the Soviet health care management, the successes of the medical science in the USSR, and the newest medical equipment including color television used in medicine.

The attendance of this section was very high. The exhibits that aroused the biggest interest both of ordinary visitors and of specialists were the following ones: the devices for artificial blood circulation, staples for blood vessels, heart and stomach, and scientific materials on transplantation of live organs.

Consumer goods, including products of the light and food industry, peltry, and hand-made objects of art, were demonstrated in a separate section that consisted was devoted mostly to the everyday life of our people. Among the exhibits there was an eye-catching documentary material showing the constant increase of consumer goods production and of purchasing capacity of the Soviet Union’s population, the annual growth of the national income in the USSR and of the part of it, which was meant for social and cultural functions. This all was a convincing evidence of the Soviet state’s care about the material well-being of its people, and created an irresistible impression to the visitors.

The final section of the exhibition was the exposition of artistic culture. It included various kinds of exhibits on musical, theatrical and cinematographic art (models of theatrical performances, artistic posters, photographic compilations, musical instruments and so on), the best works of visual art by artists and sculptors from the union republics, stands with books including up to 400 publications in the Spanish language, stands with postage stamps and gramophone records.

The main idea of the exposition was to provide visual demonstration of the florescence of the multi-ethnic artistic culture of the USSR’s people, its close connection with the life of the widest masses, and to demonstrate that all the kinds of culture in the USSR belonged to the people.

An important feature of this exposition was also demonstration of the high professional level of the Soviet art with the help of the exhibits.

The exhibits that attracted the greatest attention of the visitors included the ballet stand, the musical instruments (especially the "Estonia" grand piano), the books, mostly the ones in the Spanish language and publications on art (with a large number of reproductions), and also paintings and sculptures by Soviet artists.

The exhibition was a great success with the business circles of Mexico. Over the period of 25 days it was visited by up to one million people. Among the visitors there were the most prominent politicians and public characters of the country, delegations of representatives from trade unions, teachers, students, peasant communities, the army and fleet, and so on. It received numerous favorable responses in the Mexican press, radio and television, and this way also exerted influence on the mass of those Mexican inhabitants who did not have a chance to visit the exhibition themselves. The visitors left thousands of most enthusiastic responses about the Soviet Union and the exhibition in the guestbooks.

While viewing the exposition, the visitors made a number of remarks, which in fact appeared the essential shortcomings of our exhibitions. For the most part, those critical comments came down to the following:

  1. Insufficient commercial information (absence of leaflets and catalogues with export prices for many types of exhibited equipment, in particular, for the agricultural machines and tractors, radio sets and TV sets, optics and other products);
  2. Absence of specimens of many machines and equipment at the exhibition, which Mexico’s economy is most interested in (textile machinery, powerful crawler-type tractors, instead of tractors with air-cooled engines, which failed to find application in Mexico in view of the specific    climatic conditions);
  3. Low quality of execution of some individual exhibits (for example, the unsatisfactory painting and wooden design of the cabin of the “MAZ-200” truck with drilling installation).

It ought to be noted that the unacceptable quality of finish of the truck made by the Minsk automobile plant was mentioned by us as far back as in 1956 when such a truck was taken off the show at the Brussels World's Fair. Nevertheless, the Minsk council of national economy continues sending these vehicles to exhibitions, discrediting the national automobile industry in so doing.

It is also appropriate to say that Gorky Automobile Plant  too sent vehicles to the exhibition, which could not be shown in operation because of bad engine knock; 

  1. Many captions of the exhibits were too complicated and technical, and difficult to understand for most visitors;
  2. Small quantity and insufficient assortment of souvenirs for sale;
  3. No consolidated leaflet on the exhibition telling about its contents. The available “leaflet on the USSR” was devoted to general information about our country and had no relation to the exhibition at all;
  4. Insufficient number of Spanish interpreters for servicing the exhibition.

II. Propaganda of the USSR’s achievements at the exhibition through the Mexican press, radio, television, distribution of literature, and by other ways

Apart from the visual propaganda of the successes and advantages of socialism, at the exhibition there was a large amount of explanatory and propagandist work done with the use of the Mexican press, radio and television, distribution of special publications of literature among the population, holding press conferences, and so on. All that work was performed through the information group consisting of three persons at the management office of the exhibition.

All in all, about one million copies of various literature were distributed at the exhibition for free, mostly in the Spanish language, among which there were 100,000 copies of “The USSR” leaflet published by the “Vneshtorgizdat” EEA, 700,000 copies of brochures and booklets published by the information group at the management office jointly with the press department of the Soviet embassy in Mexico, and also two special issues of a magazine devoted to the exhibition and to A.I. Mikoyan’s visit to Mexico, up to 200,000 copies of each. The general political literature included such editions (50.000 copies of each) as: N.S. Khruschev’s speeches related to his trip to the USA, “The USSR in numbers”, “The seven-year plan and the Soviet person”, “The industry of the USSR in seven years”, “The agriculture of the USSR in seven years”, “Science and culture”, “Growth of the Soviet person’s income”, “The Soviet space rockets”, “The increase of the Soviet people’s standards of living”, etc.

It ought to be noted that the demand for literature from the visitors exceeded our possibilities by 2 or 3 times.

Much attention was paid by us to advertising of the exhibition, which began even before the opening of the exhibition and continued almost till the end of its work. The advertising was done by way of announcements and publications of articles about the exhibition in the largest Mexican newspapers: “Exelcior”, “Novedades”, “La Prensa”, etc., placing poster advertisements about the exhibition in show-windows, in the city buses and tramways (there was a total of 700 announcements placed that way), through announcements on the Mexican radio (690 broadcasts).

All the texts of the advertisements were compiled by the information group with due regard for the specific nature of the advertising industry in Mexico. The drawings were prepared by local artists.

Despite the somewhat insufficient funds allocated for advertising, by the opening day of the exhibition we were certain that the vast majority of Mexicans already knew about the time and place of the exhibition.

The work with the local press, radio and television was done in two forms:

- by way of publishing materials that popularized the exhibition and had been prepared in Moscow or on the spot by the members of the information group;

- by way of interviewing the workers of the exhibition by local correspondents and subsequent publishing of those materials in newspapers, in broadcasts on the Mexican radio and television (often straight from the territory of the exhibition).

Apart from the Mexican press, such interviews were published in the magazine of the Soviet embassy (with circulation of 100,000 copies), and also in the press of other Latin American countries.

The press conferences of Mexican and foreign journalists organized by the press department of the Embassy in connection with the exhibition, were of great importance. There was a total of two large press conferences with speeches of the director, the chief designer and individual specialists of the exhibition. They were attended by up to 150 correspondents of the local and foreign press, radio, television and documentary films.

Very important was also the explanatory work done by our information group together with the team of specialists in the line of direct information and conversations with local correspondents and visitors on a wide variety of questions about the Soviet state’s life, the contents of the exposition of some sections, and also by way of organizing visits of delegations of the general public of Mexico to the exhibition.

A good supplement to the explanatory and propagandist work became also the show of Soviet documentary, popular-science and animation films free of cost in the territory of the exhibition. The films were seen by approximately 150,000 Mexicans. The films sparked great interest of the spectators. There were especially many spectators at the show of the documentary film about N.S. Khruschev’s trip through the USA.

III. Maintenance of the exhibition, expenses on its organization and their covering, the conclusion.

The staff of the Soviet employees for maintenance of the exhibition consisted on 98 persons, among which there were 70 stand-attendants, 19 interpreters and 9 persons of administrative and technical staff. Most of the exhibition personnel got to the site very late (2-3 days before the opening of the exhibition), and it was never fully staffed: the specialist in transport and the secretary for handling foreign-language correspondence at the management office of the exhibition, as well as the interpreter for the science section, did not arrive. These employees’ responsibilities had to be assigned to others on a part-time basis. Naturally, that all created big difficulties in the work.

For the most part, the staff of the exhibition consisted of experienced specialists who had traveled abroad many times. But very few of the specialists knew the Spanish language (5-6 persons), which considerably reduced our possibilities in providing services to visitors because, as it has been already mentioned, the number of interpreters was quite insufficient.

Some assistance was rendered to us by the Soviet embassy in Mexico, they assigned several employees to the exhibition who knew Spanish. But even that was not enough due to the enormous influx of visitors and the exceptional interest shown by them to the life of the Soviet Union.

The expenses of the All-Union Chamber of Commerce on organizing and holding of the exhibition in Mexico amounted to 3.45 mln MXP, or 1.1 mln of transferable rubles. A part of these expenses has been covered by revenue from selling tickets to the exhibition (215,000 MXP) and souvenirs (375,000 MXP).

Over the time of work of the exhibition, the commercial group of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, headed by Deputy Minister S.A. Borisov, which came to Mexico for that period to expand the trade relations with the Mexican business circles, concluded a number of sales transactions for sale of Soviet lathes, tractors, printing machines, mobile electric power stations and other goods to the amount of about 2.8 mln MXP.

This way, on the whole, the expenses for the exhibition are compensated with our revenue in foreign currency.

It ought to be noted that the expenses could have been significantly lower if the management of the exhibition had arrived in Mexico, with the purpose of holding negotiations with the companies that had to install the exhibits, in sufficient time in advance and not 2-3 weeks before its opening.

Apart from that, some additional expenses could have been avoided as well, which had to be made on repair of several exhibits and setting because a significant part of the artistic setting, and also some of the miniatures and models, were badly damaged as a result of the extremely adverse conditions of unloading and storage of the exhibits in the Mexican port of Veracrus.

The damaged items also included 22 paintings. But by efforts of the artists of the Chamber of Commerce and the art restorer of the Ministry of Culture who were present at the exhibition, all the paintings were restored. Most of them were restored right at the site, the other ones were duly conserved in order to be restored in laboratory conditions.

* * *

The Soviet exhibition in Mexico became one of the most important events in propagation of truthful information about the Soviet Union in the Mexican society. The exhibition was opened soon after the end of N.S. Khruschev’s trip through the USA, in the atmosphere of enormous growth of the Soviet Union's international renown, which naturally resulted in significant increase of interest to it from the wide masses of the Mexican population. A.I. Mikoyan’s visit to Mexico contributed greatly to the growth of interest for the exhibition. The Mexican society and press gave a correct evaluation to the exhibition and the visit of one of the most prominent Soviet statesmen as a clear illustration of our country’s desire to expand friendly ties between Mexico and the Soviet Union. Many local newspapers had to state that due to the Soviet exhibition taking place and A.I. Mikoyan’s visit to Mexico, the Soviet Union had become the most popular country for Mexicans.

The exhibition received numerous enthusiastic responses in other Latin American countries as well, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, and this way its significance reached far beyond the borders of only Mexico.

Annex:

  1. Review of Mexican press in relation to the Soviet exhibition in Mexico;
  2. Responses of the visitors of the Soviet exhibition in Mexico;
  3. Photo album of the exhibition.

Director of the Soviet exhibition
in Mexico in 1959 (A. Shelnov)

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