Report on the Political and Economic Situation in Tabriz in 1943
This document was made possible with support from Leon Levy Foundation
A GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CONSULAR DISTRICT
In view of the fact that the Vice Consulates in the cities of Rezaye, Maku, and Ardebil worked independently of us in 1943, the General Consulate served only the Tabriz and Maragheh shakhristans (provinces), including the cities of: Tabriz, Maragheh, Mianeh, Ahar, Marand, and Dekhargan.
The total number of residents in the indicated areas is 1.3 million, of which about 450,000 people live in cities and the rest are settled in villages.
The nomadic population is only in the Ahar region, where the Khadzhialilyu (the Karadzhadagets) tribe live permanently, totalling about 4,000 people; in addition, in the southeastern part of Maragheh District (Sekhend) sometimes Shakhsevens [Translator’s note: according to a Soviet encyclopedia, a Turkic nationality] migrate from Khalkhal in the summer months.
By profession, about 85% of the population is engaged in agriculture; the rest - in industry and commerce.
By nationality, the population of the consular district consists of 1,250,000 Azerbaijanis, 30-35,000 Persians, 12,000 Armenians, and 3,000 Assyrians. Kurds live only in the Miandub region. Their numbers in our consular district are insignificant.
In economic relations the above two shakhristans occupy a leading place in the economy of Azerbaijan. All the light and heavy [fabrichno-zavodskaya] industry and more than 75% of the handicrafts industry of Azerbaijan are concentrated here; about 45% of the grain crops are cultivated and up to 65% of the dried fruits are gathered [here].
The consulate is situated in the city of Tabriz – the political and economic center of Azerbaijan and the most important road junction.
The city of Tabriz contains the governor-general’s office of the 3rd Ostan and its directorates: education, health, veterinary, agriculture, industry, highways, police, notary, and justice. Together with these, the following joint directorates serving the 3rd and 4th Ostans are located in Tabriz: gendarmerie, rail and shipping, finance, customs, the chamber of commerce, and the HQ of the Iranian troops in Azerbaijan.
Besides our Consulate there are the General Consulates of Great Britain and Turkey, the US Consulate, and a Vice-Consulate of Iraq in Tabriz.
NOTE: As a consequence of the fact that the political and economic situation of our consular district cannot be separated from the life of the province as a whole, we have been forced to cover the situation in all of Azerbaijan.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION AND THE ACTIVITY OF THE LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
The political situation in Azerbaijan during 1943 can be described by 2 periods: the first – from January thorough August of 1943 and the second – from August through January of 1944.
The first period is characterized by the strengthening of our position, the growth of the democratic movement and the strengthening of pro-Soviet moods, which occurred under the influence of the brilliant victories of the Red Army at the front in the struggle with the German invaders and the strengthening of the international position of the USSR, and also as a result of friendly actions toward us by the local administration.
The second period is characterized by the inactivity of the local administration, a considerable weakening in our position, the strengthening of anti-Soviet activity by reactionary elements, and also an intensification of national and class contradictions.
These changes in the political situation occurred as a result of the removal from the post of Governor-General of Mokkadam and a whole series of high officials (Bozorgani, Kyabiri, Khadevi, and others) who had followed a friendly policy toward us, and also in connection with the beginning of the electoral campaign to the 14th Convocation of the Majlis, which put before reactionary circles the question about the need to conduct a decisive struggle for their interests.
As is well known, at the end of 1942 at the insistence of our government, Governor-General Fakhimi was removed from his post and Mokkadam was appointed in his place. The latter, before his arrival in Azerbaijan, had energetically undertaken the improvement of social and political life of the province [oblast’] and also the curtailment of the activity of reactionary elements which, during Fakhimi’s term in office as Governor-General, had mainly worked through the government apparatus.
Mokkadam pursued the following goals in his practical work:
1. Conducting a complete replacement of officials and placing his supporters into leading posts, even up to district [uyezd] chiefs, from among the native inhabitants of Azerbaijan and mainly from his followers.
2. Restoring the authority and power of government bodies and also strict order, in his expression, which would have been in keeping with the period [the region] was experiencing.
3. Subordinating the activity of public organizations to his control.
4. Improving the supply of the necessities of life to the population.
In realizing his program Mokkadam ran into a whole series of insurmountable difficulties.
In the first place, Fakhimi, the previous Governor-General, created a famine [golod] in Azerbaijan in order to discredit us.
In August 1942 Fakhimi said that the Soviet government supposedly was taking away [otberet] grain and gave an instruction not to remove grain from villages, as a result of which, before the closing of the roads, in not one city of Azerbaijan were there reserves of grain for the winter, and beginning with the end of January 1943 there occurred interruptions in the supply of grain to the city population.
The food situation was also considerably complicated by the arrival of an American adviser in Azerbaijan who removed all the reserves of grain to Tehran from points accessible to automotive transport; as a consequence of this, an exceptionally serious situation was created with the delivery of grain to supply the urban population. In snowdrift conditions all the cities should have been supplied only by transporting grain using pack animals.
In the second place, the local governmental staff, on the directive of Fakhimi, who had achieved his restoration to the post of Governor-General, began sabotaging the measures being carried out by Mokkadam and had actually ceased normal activity.
In the third place, the Iranian government, inspired by the British and Americans, from the day of Mokkadam’s arrival as Governor-General created an unbearable situation for normal work. In particular, the financing of state institutions and the release of funds for the purchase of grain were stopped, etc., as a result of which Mokkadam could not manage to organize the supply of cities before the day he was recalled; there were great interruptions [in supply] until June. There were days when Mokkadam gave the population potatoes instead of grain.
In spite of the above, Mokkadam managed to do the following:
1. Conduct a purge of the government staff. In doing this, he proceeded from the principle of strengthening friendly ties with the USSR and expelling the elements of the government staff most hostile to us, including the Chief of Police, Rastegar; the Chief of the Serab District, Ehrabab Zade, who had distinguished himself by savage reprisals against pro-Soviet elements; and the well-known Turkish agent and our enemy, Colonel Dzhampulad.
The purge which Mokkadam conducted made the government staff flexible and capable.
2. Stop the capriciousness of the landowners toward the peasants and restore law and order. Mokkadam, in particular, cancelled the punitive expeditions sent into villages which were conducted at the landowners’ request and also the repression of peasants without the sanction of the appropriate authorities;
3. Stop the arming of the landowners, which had begun on Fakhimi’s initiative after our troops entered Iran; also disarming a whole series of gangs which had been armed with Fakhimi’s aid, of which the most significant were the gangs of Dzhemshid Ehsfendiyari (Maragheh region) and Rashid Khana (Ardebil region).
4. Create normal relations for the work of democratic and pro-Soviet organizations;
5. Restore the government apparatus in Kurdish regions, through which Mokkadam began work to develop Kurdistan and expel pro-British elements;
6. Frustrate the Iranian government’s plan to disrupt the supply of Soviet garrisons with forage and food.
Along with this, he made a decisive struggle against the dissemination, especially among landowners and merchants, of various anti-Soviet stories [such as] that the USSR reportedly intended to join Iranian Azerbaijan to Soviet Azerbaijan; he also began to gather around himself nationalist elements and people loyal to us, mainly landowners and merchants who had cooperated with Russia in pre-revolutionary times.
The work which Mokkadam did and our successes at the front created a turning point in relations with us, especially among the propertied elements of the population.
A whole series of landowners, merchants, and high government officials who in the past had avoided relations with us began to visit the General Consulate and establish business contacts with us.
Thanks to the measures conducted by Mokkadam, the activity of democratic organizations increased considerably. For example, the labor organization and the People’s Party in July 1943 conducted strikes at large light and heavy industrial enterprises in the city of Tabriz, as a result of which the owners were forced to sign a collective agreement which was quite advantageous to the workers, according to which an 8-hour workday was established and wages were increased 10-15%. Moreover, the owners were obliged to supply the workers with two complete sets of work clothes a year at their own expense, free medical care, from 1 to 1.25 kg of bread daily, etc.
The People’s Party restored its village organizations, which on Fakhimi’s order had been disbanded by landowners in 1942, and developed a broad pre-election campaign for deputies to the 14th Convocation of the Majlis.
Societies for Cultural Ties with the USSR were organized in all cities and, as a whole, in a number of rural regions.
Reactionary elements were forced to partially discontinue their work and conduct it secretly.
SECOND PERIOD. The growth of pro-Soviet moods and the strengthening of the democratic movement of the popular masses greatly alarmed the reactionary elements who, with the support of our allies, mainly the British, conducted a decisive struggle to consolidate their position and destroy the democratic organizations.
Having begun this struggle, the reactionary elements in the first place directed their blow against the Governor-General Mokkadam and his supporters; that is they saw in him the force supporting the democratic movement and our friends.
Ferma-Fermayan, Shafi Amin, Sadygyani, Sartin-Zade, and others developed a furious campaign for the recall of Mokkadam.
In order to compromise Mokkadam, in 1943 they organized a whole series of disorders in order to disrupt the supply of
The most significant disorders occurred on 12 July 1943 in the city of Tabriz, where a mob of 1,000 people stormed several bake shops and beat the Deputy Governor-General.
As is well known, this campaign was crowned with success. Mokkadam and a whole series of pro-Soviet officials were removed from their posts.
Akhmedi, who replaced the Governor-General, turned out to be an incompetent official, unable to organize the normal work of the government apparatus. All his practical activity consisted solely of searching for ways to get bribes and other illegal income, as a result of which local government officials, and also central authorities, stopped dealing with him as Governor-General.
The former secretary to the Governor-General, Ashrefkhan Bezeshkipur, said this to me on this subject: “Akhmedi completely wrecked the work and turned the Governor General’s office from the
governing center into a bribe collection point. I heard from Ardelan that the government several times tried to remove him from office and recall him to Tehran [tsentr], but reportedly your embassy objected to this.”
The District Chief of Tabriz, Ehl’mi, declared: “When Akhmedi came to the position of Ostandar [Translator’s note: evidently the Persian word for “Governor-General”] all activity of the Governor General’s office ceased completely. The district chiefs and other government officials established ties with Tehran and worked directly according to government directives, bypassing him”.
The inactivity of the Governor-General’s office and also the decentralization of the government apparatus which took place put us in an exceptionally serious position, since we were deprived of the capability to exercise influence on the social and political life of the district through local authorities and also to fight against elements hostile to us, which considerably weakened our influence in Azerbaijan.
I give several examples as confirmation:
1. During the elections of deputies to the 14th Convocation of the Majlis landowners unleashed a frantic campaign in the Maragheh district and in the Serab-Mianeh areas against the People’s Party and pro-Soviet elements. By means of mass repressions, eviction of peasants from villages, and damaging the harvest, etc., they deprived elements friendly to us of the opportunity to take part in the elections, as a result of which such inveterate enemies of ours and reactionaries as Ferma-Fermayan and Fetugi were elected. The repeated attempts of the General Consulate to create a normal situation in the above areas through Akhmedi turned out to be unsuccessful.
2. In connection with the extremely unsatisfactory export of grain from Azerbaijan to supply the capital, the General Consulate demanded that Akhmedi take the most decisive measures to export grain. After a conversation with our workers the latter gave the following instruction to the chief of the grain directorate: “Today the USSR General Consul, Mr. Kuznetsov, and a representative of the embassy in Tehran, Mr. Rassadin, visited me and declared that we are doing nothing and harshly demanded [I] begin exporting grain. I earnestly request you begin exporting grain in order that I do not receive similar complaints. Akhmedi”.
Together with the activity of individuals hostile to us, various groups of reactionary elements were created whose mission was the destruction of democratic organizations. Thus, for example, a group of reactionary landowners and officials consisting of Mushteid-Zade Tavakuli, Gadzhi Musavi, Seifani, Rashid Nezama, and others, 15 in all, organized a “Bashgakhe Felakheti” (“Landowners’ Club”), which organized much work toward an association of landowners of the Maragheh region to fight the People’s Party and pro-Soviet elements. The leaders of this organization, Nezam [SIC] and Mushteid-Zade, repeatedly spoke in the city of Maragheh with calls to begin the physical destruction of the most dangerous workers of the leftist organizations.
Branches of the “Andzhumane Tabligate Isla[mi]” (“Society for Islamic Propaganda”) were organized in Tabriz, Ahar, Maragheh, Ardebil, and other cities. The center of this organization is in Tehran and, according to unverified data, is reportedly associated with the British stooge Seid-Ziya-Eht-Din.
The branches of this society have worked to break up democratic organizations; this work was accompanied by anti-Soviet propaganda.
A speech of the leader of the Ahar branch, Mullah Seid Kyazima, at a meeting in one of the mosques of Ahar is typical of the organization’s activity. He said: “Look here, people! I have the authority to destroy all organizations created by the Russians and the property of their members is to be divided among devout Moslems. Everyone who speaks against this will be swept aside from the face of our Earth. I assert this because a force stands behind us – soldiers, who are ready on demand to begin severe reprisals against traitors to the people. The government has also already given an order to crush the hated organizations and they have already been crushed everywhere. Only Ahar remains!”.
After Mokkadam’s recall, on the instructions of the government, punitive expeditions were sent to areas with the most developed peasant movement; on demand of the landowners the expeditions robbed the peasants and beat them unmercifully. In just one Ahar region in August 1943 the punitive detachment headed by Captain Bekhaver committed savage reprisals against the peasants of 25 villages, as a result of which dozens of peasants were maimed and hundreds of peasants were forced to leave their villages and flee to the mountains. The punitive detachment operating in the Serab region committed outrages with no less savagery.
The landowners, relying on armed gangs consisting of kulaks and landowners’ servants, also began a mass persecution of peasants, as a result of which a considerable number of peasants were expelled from villages and deprived of shelter. Thus, for example, in September 1943 a landowner of the village of Ouma (Mianeh region), in order to remove peasants belonging to his village, organized a general flogging of them. Then, with the help of gendarmes and kulaks, they stormed the local committee of the People’s Party, expelling all of its members and most active peasants from the village and took pledges from the remaining that they would never participate in the work of the People’s Party. Similar phenomena took place in other villages.
Thus, the removal of a large group of pro-Soviet officials from Azerbaijan, the intensification of the activity of reactionary elements, and also the weakening of the democratic movement of the popular masses which occurred due to terror and repression considerable weakened our position, but it in no way undermined the people’s faith in the USSR.
The population considered the weakening of our position as a temporary phenomenon caused by the war. The overwhelming majority of the population as before regards us with exceptional attention, which confirms what both our friends and our enemies have said on this subject.
A group of workers fired by a factory owner of Khoy for participating in a strike wrote in a letter to the USSR General Consul: “At the present time a fierce class warfare is taking place in the city of Tabriz between the exploiters and the exploited; the fight is not for life, but for death; the struggle is both political and economic, capitalists and landowners caught in contradictions unresolved for them, are trying to repress us with heavy labor and hunger. But this will not avail them, because the great Soviet Union exists, which we trust, and will never abandon us in misfortune”.
The Iranian [SIC] Consul Dudzheyli declared to me: In the brief time of [my] stay in Azerbaijan I came to the conviction that the people’s love for you is higher than for their own country”.
A local merchant and factory owner Dzhurabchi confirmed: “Already more than 70% of the population of Azerbaijan is ready to follow you for any experiment”.
The above is also confirmed by the fact that the British and the reactionary elements inspired by them did not permit elections to begin in 1943, fearing that pro-Soviet deputies would come to the Majlis from Azerbaijan.
The successes of the Red Army at the front and also the growth of the influence of the USSR in international relations has forced many in Azerbaijan to think over their personal fate and this has restrained the reactionary elements from conducting active anti-Soviet work. A big merchant and factory owner of the city of Tabriz, Rakhim Zade, evaluating the international situation with his friends declared: “The situation is turning out so that they will find some Tito or a person like our Khamdal, and with his help take away all our property. The events in Yugoslavia and the Poland issue have shown that Britain and America are powerless to undertake anything against Russia”.
[Translator’s note: According to www.cyberiran.com Shaykh Khamdal was a British protégé in the province of Khuzestan in the early ‘20s]
A big merchant of Azerbaijan, Nusrat Ehskanderi, who in 1942 headed the anti-Soviet organization “Azerbaydzhan”, said in a conversation with me: “The situation which has developed is forcing me to establish contact with you and cooperate loyally. If I don’t do this then you will always find a pretext to deprive me of the villages and property located in the zone of your influence”.
ELECTIONS TO THE MAJLIS
One of the most important events in the political life of Azerbaijan were the elections to the 14th Convocation of the Majlis.
According to the electoral law of 1934 Azerbaijan is divided into 11 electoral districts with the following number of deputies to be elected:
TABRIZ District 9 deputies
Ardebil District 1 deputy
Meshkinshakhr District “
Khalkhal District “
Ahar District (Karadag) “
The District of Serab-Mianeh “
Afshar (Sail Kala) District “
Mahabad District “
Maragheh District 2 deputies
The District of Khoy-Maku “
Besides the above districts the Armenian and Assyrian populations also elect one deputy [each]. Thus, 22 deputies should be elected to the Majlis from Azerbaijan.
According to this law, male Iranian subjects who have reached the age of 20 by the time the elections begin and who have lived continuously in the electoral district no less than 6 months before the beginning of the elections enjoy the right to vote.
Women, servicemen, persons sentenced under Islamic law, and those who have spoken against the Constitution and the country’s independence do not enjoy the right to vote.
[The following] can be elected to the Majlis:
1. Male Iranian subjects between 30 and 70 who are literate and known to the population of the electoral district;
2. Persons of the Muslim faith or those professing other religions. Deputies are chosen for a term of 2 years by direct and secret vote.
The electoral campaign began on 8 August 1943 and was held in a rather complex situation.
Reactionary elements, supported by the British, exerted every effort to not permit deputies oriented toward us into the Majlis, especially members of the People’s Party.
In the fight against us they resorted to various methods, beginning with a frantic anti-Soviet campaign and an artificial postponement of the elections and ending with the removal from their posts of government officials who had helped us. More than 30 officials were removed for this reason, including former Governor-General Mokkadam, Khadevi, Kyabiri, Bozorgani, and others.
One of the well-known Anglophiles among the big merchants, Ferma-Fermayan, clearly expressed the position of the reactionary elements when he wrote in a letter: “We should either defeat the candidates supported by the Russians and ensure the election of desirable people or at any cost provoke [SIC] the elections and get them stopped”.
The significance the British played in the elections in Azerbaijan can be shown by the arrival of the British Ambassador (Bullard) in Azerbaijan before the elections and also the statement of the British Consul in Tabriz (Rehpp), who declared that the fate of Azerbaijan and the fate of the Majlis depend on the outcome of the elections, whether there will be one or not.
Guided by the above the reactionary elements, inspired by the British, unleashed a frantic campaign against us and the candidates supported by us. Wishing to move the merchant class, the landowners, and the petit bourgeoisie away from supporting us, they spread various provocative stories about our policy, such as:
“The Bolsheviks intend to push former communists into parliament in the form of members of the People’s Party in order to pass laws in the Majlis about the transfer to land to the peasants and factories to the workers” or “The Russians intend to seize Azerbaijan away from Iran through deputies elected to the Majlis”, etc.
These stories had their influence, especially on landowners. Through economic compulsion (a prohibition on gathering the harvest, deprivation of land, etc.) and terror the latter deprived the peasants of the opportunity of voting for the candidates they desired. But all the same here and there the residents of villages managed to vote for candidates oriented toward us. In the village of Uski the peasants, recognizing that the organization “KANU ne [is not] Demokrasi Azerbaydzhan [SIC]” promoted pro-Soviet candidates, organized 600 people to be at the [electoral] urn, and handed out ballots to them.
In cities where the elections were held more freely a large part of the population voted for candidates of the democratic organizations.
As of 1.4.44 nine of the 11 electoral districts had concluded voting. The following deputies were elected to the Majlis:
In the Tabriz Electoral District:
1. Dzhafar Pishaveri – a candidate of the People’s Party, editor of the Tehran newspaper “Azhir”.
2. Fatali Ipekchyan – an average merchant, a genuine supporter of the USSR.
3. Asker Panakhi – an engineer and large construction contractor. He was supported by us on instructions of the Embassy.
4. Abvol’ Gasan Sadygi – Chief of the Main Directorate of the “Khrustal’” Society in Tehran. He is loyal to us.
5. Ehmir Nusrat Iskenderi – A big and rather influential landowner. In the course of the elections he gave much support to our candidates, having organized 4,000 votes for them. He was elected to the Majlis without anyone’s support. During the elections he approached us and promised to cooperate with representatives of the USSR embassy in the cause of strengthening Iranian-Soviet friendship. He approached us out of fear of losing his villages located in our zone (Azerbaijan, Alyambaragush).
6. Khadzhi Zeynal Abdyl Khoi – A big landowner and factory owner. He is associated with USSR Upoltorgpredstv through trade channels. He was elected to the Majlis by buying up votes, spending more than 1 million rials for this purpose. Because of the fear of being deprived of his position in the Majlis he will not join hostile groups. He has repeatedly assured us of his readiness to cooperate with us.
[Translator’s note: I could not find an expansion for the acronym “Upoltorgpredstv”, but from the word roots it refers to an authorized trade representative or mission]
7. Abvol’ Gasan Segatel’ Islami – A deputy of the previous convocation of the Majlis. His candidacy was supported by the government and the “Sheykhi” religious sect;
8. Osuf Mushtekhedi –A doctor of medicine, son of an important cleric and landowner. He was supported by the government and the clergy in the elections.
[Translator’s note: This name was spelled “Moshtekhedi” here, but as “Mushtekhedi” and “mushtekhid” below]
9. Ali Asker Sartip Zade – A leaseholder and small contractor, by conviction a bourgeois democrat. In the past a member of a number of leftist organizations. Suspected of ties with the British.
We think that the deputies elected from Tabriz, with the exception of Sartip Zade and Mushtekhedi will support our positions in the Majlis.
10. Abbas Pasha Khoi – A big Maku landowner. His candidacy was supported by the Maku Vice Consulate, which describes him as a person loyal to us;
11. Dzhelal Imami – A son of the Khoy Mushtekhid Imam Dzhuma Khoi, a well-known Anglophile;
[Translator’s note: “Mushtekhid” is transliterated as in text, but probably the same as the Arabic “mujahed”, normally translated as “holy warrior”, one who fights for Islam. Apparently used here as a title]
12. Iskender Mokkodam- A small landowner with undetermined political leanings;
13. Mussa Fatugi – A big merchant and landowner, a close friend and supporter of the British agent Ferma-Fermayan;
14. Sadyk Afshar – An average merchant, supported by the Rezaye Vice Consulate per instructions of the embassy. Described as a person with a pro-Soviet orientation;
15. Sadr Kazi – A brother of the well-known cleric Kazi Magomet in Central Kurdistan. Supported by the Rezaye Vice Consulate. He is friendly toward us. He has agreed to support all our steps in the Majlis;
16. Sardar Satvat Bakhaduri – An Ahar landowner without foreign policy leanings;
17. Ferma-Fermayan – A large landowner and well-known anti-Soviet agent;
18. Mekhti-Adl’ – A large landowner of Meshkinshakhr. His candidacy in the elections was supported by the Ardebil Vice Consulate. The latter describes him favorably.
The voting has still not concluded in Ardebil, Khalkhal, and the Armenian district, where candidates we support, Sheykh Lenkorani, Zokai, and Artashes Oganesyan, are running.
Thus, of those elected in Azerbaijan 8 deputies (Pishaveri, Ipekchyan, Sadygi, Panakhi, Sadyk Afshar, Abbas Pasha, Adl’ and Sadr Kazi) are loyal to us and will cooperate with us in the work of the Majlis; 3 deputies (Iskenderi, Khoi, and Segatil’ Islami) are not hostile to us and could be used to strengthen our influence in the Majlis; 2 deputies (Ferma-Fermayan and Fatugi) are pro-British; and 2 deputies (Mokkodam and Bakhaduri) are without foreign policy leanings. Their attitude toward us will depend on the majority in the Majlis.
The progress of the elections shows that:
1. The prestige of the USSR among the people is exceptionally high. This is confirmed by the fact that in areas where elections were held more or less freely a large part of the population voted for pro-Soviet candidates, which incited the elements hostile to us in those areas to disguise themselves as our friends in order to get elected to the Majlis. For example, the British agent Dzhelal Imami was elected to the Majlis only because he advertised himself everywhere during the elections as a supporter of the USSR and a candidate supported by the Soviet Embassy;
2. We should rely chiefly on a mass democratic party in conducting such a serious political campaign as elections to the Majlis. The current democratic organizations and groups are weak and still do not exercise the required influence on the social and political life of the provinces.
A report detailing the political and economic situation in Tabriz in 1943, detailing, among other things, leadership, local government, and elections. There is emphasis placed on the Soviet role in the region and how it will affect outcomes.
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