MOUNTAIN JEWS, a Jewish ethnic and linguistic group living mainly in azerbaijan and Daghestan. The name "Mountain Jews" emerged in the first half of the 19th century when the Russian Empire annexed those territories. It is supposed that the name derives from "mountain of the Jews" (Chufut or Dzuhud Dag in the Tat language), an ancient name of Daghestan, indicating its large Jewish population. The Mountain Jews call themselves Juhur. According to estimates based on the Soviet censuses of 1959 and 1970, they numbered between 50,000 and 70,000 in 1970. Of these, 17,109 registered as Tats in the 1970 census, so as to escape being registered as Jews and discriminated against by the authorities. About 22,000 did so in the 1979 census. They speak several dialects (similar to each other) of the Tat language (see judeo-tat ), which belongs to the western branch of the Iranian languages group. Their main centers of settlement are: in Azerbaijan, baku , capital of the republic, and the town of Kuba where the majority of Mountain Jews live in the suburb of Krasnaya Sloboda which has an all-Jewish population; in Daghestan, derbent , Makhachkalah, capital of the republic (which was called Petrovsk Port until 1922), and Buynaksk (Temir-Khan Shurah prior to 1922). Outside Azerbaijan and Daghestan, considerable numbers of Mountain Jews live in Nalchik, in the suburb of Yevreyskaya Kolonka, and also in the town of Grozny. Linguistic and indirect historical evidence indicates that the community of Mountain Jews was formed as a result of   constant emigration of Jews from northern Persia – and perhaps also from nearby regions of the Byzantine Empire – to the Transcaucasian Azerbaijan, where they settled in its eastern and north-eastern regions among a population speaking the Tat language which they also adopted in time. The Talmud mentions a Jewish community in the city of Derbent as early as the third century C.E., and the amora R. Simeon Safra taught there (TJ, Meg. 4, 5, 75b). The immigration of the Jews evidently began when the Muslims invaded those regions in 639–643, and it continued for the whole period from the Arab to the 13th-century Mongol invasion. Apparently the main waves of migration ceased in the early 11th century under the impact of the mass invasion of a Turkic nomadic tribe. This intrusion might also have forced many of the Tat-speaking Jewish inhabitants of Transcaucasian Azerbaijan to move further north to Daghestan. There they contacted remnants of the khazars who had adopted Judaism in the 8th century. Already in 1254 the monk Wilhelm Rubruquis, a Flemish traveler, noted the existence of "a great number of Jews" throughout eastern Caucasus, in both Daghestan and Azerbaijan. The Mountain Jews had contacts with the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean region. Tagriberdi (1409–1470), the Muslim historiographer from Egypt, wrote of Jewish merchants from "Circassia" (i.e., from Caucasus) visiting Cairo. Through such contacts printed books reached the Mountain Jews. In the town of Kuba books were preserved until the beginning of the 20th century that had been printed in Venice in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. From the 14th to the 16th centuries European travelers did not reach those regions, but rumors spread in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries about "nine and a half Jewish tribes" driven by "Alexander the Great" behind the Caspian Mountains, i.e., into Daghestan. Those rumors might have originated with Jewish merchants from the eastern Caucasus appearing at the time in Italy. N. Vitsen, a Dutch traveler, who visited Daghestan in 1690 found many Jews there, especially in the village of Buynak, not far from the present Buynaksk, as well as in the Khanate of Qaraqaitagh where, according to him 15,000 Jews lived. The 17th and early 18th centuries can perhaps be considered for the Jews a period of relative peace and prosperity. A solid area of Jewish settlement existed in the north of present-day Azerbaidjan and in southern Daghestan, in the region between the towns of Kuba and Derbent. A valley near Derbent, called by the Muslim Juhud-Kata (Jewish Valley), was inhabited evidently mainly by Jews. Its largest settlement, named Aba-Sava, served as the spiritual center of the community. Several piyyutim (liturgical poems) written in Hebrew by Elisha ben Samuel, who lived in the region, have been preserved. Also in Aba-Sava there lived a scholar called Gershon Lalah ben Moses Naqdi who wrote a commentary on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. Mattathias ben Samuel ha-Kohen from Shemakha to the south of Kuba wrote between 1806 and 1828 a kabbalistic work, Kol Mevasser, which is the last evidence of religious creativity in Hebrew in the community. From the second half of the 18th century, the situation of the Mountain Jews severely deteriorated as the result of the struggle to conquer their region involving Russia, Persia, Turkey, and a number of local rulers. The Persian commander Nadir, who later became the Shah of Persia (1736–47), managed in the early 1730s to drive the Turks out of Azerbaijan and successfully to withstand Russian efforts to possess Daghestan. Several settlements of Mountain Jews were almost entirely destroyed by his troops; a number of others were partially demolished and plundered. The Jews saved from destruction settled in the town of Kuba under the protection of its ruler Khan Hussein. In 1797 or 1799 Surkhan-Khan (the Muslim ruler of qazimuqs or laks) attacked Aba-Sava and, after a bitter battle in which 157 defenders of the settlements perished, killed all the male prisoners, took the women and children prisoners, and destroyed the settlement. Thus the settlements of the Jewish valley came to an end. Those Jews who were so fortunate as to remain alive found refuge in Derbent under the protection of the local ruler, Fatkh-Ali-Khan, whose lands stretched to the town of Kuba. In 1806 Russia annexed Derbent and the surrounding areas. In 1813 Transcaucasian Azerbaijan was annexed, the formal right to possession being finalized in 1828. Thus the majority of Mountain Jews who lived in these regions found themselves under Russian rule. In 1830 a rebellion against Russia broke out in Daghestan, except for the coastal region including Derbent. The rebellion, headed by Shamil, continued with interruptions up to 1859. Its slogan was Jihad – holy war against non-believers, i.e., non-Muslims. Grave assaults on Mountain Jews occurred: the inhabitants of a number of auls (villages) were forced to convert to Islam, and in time they merged completely with the surrounding population. However, for several generations, the memory of their Jewish origin lingered. In 1840 the community heads of Mountain Jews in Derbent appealed to Czar Nicholas I in a petition (in Hebrew) beseeching the Russians to "gather the Jews dispersed in the mountains, the forests, and little villages, suffering under Tatars" (meaning the rebellious Muslims) "and settle them in towns and settlements" (meaning in areas controlled by the Russians). The turning of the Mountain Jews to Russia for protection did not lead to immediate changes in their situation, occupations, or community structure. Such changes emerged slowly only toward the end of the 19th century. In 1835, of 7,649 Mountain Jews under Russian rule 58.3% were involved in agriculture and 41.7% were urban dwellers. The town population, however, also engaged to a considerable extent in agriculture, mainly in viticulture and wine-making, especially in Kuba and Derbent; they also grew rubia, a plant from the roots of which red paint was extracted. The rich families among the Mountain Jews were wine producers: the Ḥanukaevs, owners of a company for producing and selling wine, and the Dadashevs, who, besides wine production, founded the largest fishing company in Daghestan. The raising of rubia was almost entirely dropped by the   early 20th century due to the development of aniline dye production; most Mountain Jews who had been involved in the business lost their property and became casual workers. This became their job mainly in Baku, where the number of Mountain Jews increased only toward the end of the 19th century, and to some extent also in Derbent, where the bankrupt Jews turned mostly to door to door trading or became seasonal fishing workers. Almost all the Mountain Jews engaged in viticulture worked also in gardening. In some settlements of Azerbaijan they grew tobacco, and in Qaitagh and Tabasaran (Daghestan) they were engaged in land cultivation, an occupation which was also common in several villages of Azerbaijan. ln some of the villages their main employment was leather processing. This branch came to a standstill in the early 20th century when the Russian authorities forbade Mountain Jews to enter Central Asia where they used to buy the raw skins. A significant part of the leather processors became town laborers. The number of Mountain Jews in petty trade, including peddling, was relatively small in the initial period of Russian power, but grew significantly from the late 19th century. The few affluent Jewish merchants lived mainly in Kuba and Derbent, and from the end of the 19th century they also began to settle in the towns of Baku and Temir-Khan-Shura, where they most notably dealt in textiles and carpet selling. In his travel book Sefer ha-Massa'ot be-Ereẓ Kavkaz (1886), joseph judah chorny , who traveled in the Caucasus for eight years (1867–75), gives detailed information on the life and settlements (about 30 at the time) of the Mountain Jews. Another valuable source is the book of the Russian writer Nemirovich-Danchenko (Voinstvuyushchii Izrail; "Fighting Israel," 1886), in which he records his vivid impressions of his stay among the tribe. The Mountain Jews were then simple people, mostly illiterate, but proud, courageous, and freedom-loving. Farmers and hunters, they always carried a dagger or similar weapon in their typical Caucasian dress. The Tat Jews were prepared at any time to defend by their sword their family or their honor. Their dwellings were low mud huts, whose inside walls were hung with polished weapons. The synagogue, its exterior resembling a mosque, served as a ḥeder for the children. Sitting on the floor they learned the Torah by heart from the ḥakham. Of the Jewish festivals, Purim and Passover were especially celebrated. Their Passover seder had a special form differing from the traditional seder. During the night of hoshana rabba the girls used to dance; according to Tat tradition, this is the night when a man's fate is decided. The marriage ceremony contained foreign influences, and the circumcision ceremony was generally held in the synagogue. Tat family names are mostly biblical names, to which the Russian suffix "OV" was added, e.g., Pinkhasov, Binyaminov, etc. The custom of the vendetta was practiced until recently. The main social framework of the Mountain Jews up to the end of the 1920s was a large family unit encompassing three or four generations and reaching 70 or more people in number. As a rule, the extended family lived around a large single "yard" where each nuclear family, consisting of a father and mother with their children, occupied a separate house. The Mountain Jews practiced polygamy, and two or three wives at a time were common up to the Soviet period. If a nuclear family consisted of a husband and two or three wives, then each wife with her children occupied a separate house. The father was head of the family, and after his death was succeeded by his eldest son. The head of the family took care of the property shared by all members of the family. He also fixed the work schedule for all the men in the family and his authority was beyond question. The mother of the family, or in the polygamous families the first wife of the father, conducted the household and watched over the housework: cooking the food for all the family, cleaning the yard and the house, and so on. Several large families originating from the same ancestor formed the broader and loosely connected community, tukhum (literally "seed"). Family links were of special importance in vendettas; if the murderer appeared Jewish and the relatives did not manage to avenge the blood of the victim within three days after the murder, then the families of the murderer and the victim reconciled and considered themselves tied by the bonds of blood kinship. The population of the Jewish village consisted as a rule of three to five large families. The head of the rural community originated from the most respected or most numerous family of the settlement. In the towns the Jews lived in special suburbs as in Kuba, or in a separate Jewish quarter as in Derbent. From the 1860s Mountain Jews began to live in towns where they had never lived before (Baku, Temir-Khan-Shura), and in towns founded by the Russians: Petrovsk Port, Nalchik, and Grozny. Such moves often resulted in the disintegration of the structure of the large family, for only part of it – one or two nuclear families – moved to a new settlement. Even in the towns where Mountain Jews had lived for a long time, such as Kuba and Derbent (but not in the villages), the process of the disintegration of large families began toward the end of the 19th century. Precise data on the administrative structure of urbanized Mountain Jews is available only for Derbent, where the community was headed by three elected members. One of these took the post of head and the two others served as his deputies. They were responsible both for the relations with the authorities and for the internal affairs of the community. The rabbinical hierarchy had two levels: "rabbi" and "dayyan." The rabbi served as ḥazzan and preacher in the namaz (synagogue) of his village or his quarter of the town, and also as a teacher in talmid-khuna (ḥeder) and as religious slaughterer (shoḥet). The dayyan was the chief rabbi of the town: he was elected by the leaders of the community and was the highest religious authority not only for his town, but also for the neighboring settlements; he chaired the religious court (bet din ). He was also the hazzan and preacher in the main synagogue of the town and headed the yeshivah.   The level of halakhic knowledge among the yeshivah graduates was about that of a ritual slaughterer elsewhere, but they were reverently called "rabbi." From the middle of the 19th century a number of Mountain Jews studied in Ashkenazi yeshivot in Russia, mostly in Lithuania; there they were granted only the title of shoḥet but, on returning to the Caucasus, they served as rabbis. Very few of these Jews who studied in the yeshivot of Russia received the title of rabbi. From the mid-19th century, the Czarist authorities acknowledged the dayyan of Temir-Khan-Shra as the chief rabbi of northern Daghestan and northern Caucasus, and the dayyan of Derbent as chief rabbi of southern Daghestan and Azerbaijan. Besides their traditional duties, they acted as kazyonny ravvin (official rabbis in behalf of the authorities). In the pre-Russian period, relations between the Mountain Jews and Muslims were determined by the so-called covenant of omar , the special set of Islamic directives regarding dhimmis (non-Muslim protected citizens). However, the application of those laws in these regions was accompanied by special humiliation since the Mountain Jews depended to a great extent on the local ruler. According to the description of the German traveler I. Gerber, published in 1728, they had to pay a special ransom to the Muslim rulers for protection. Moreover, they had "to perform all kinds of difficult, dirty jobs which could not be enforced on a Muslim." The Jews had to give the ruler some of their yields free of charge: tobacco, rubia, tanned skins, and so on; they worked on his fields in harvest time, built and repaired his house, did gardening jobs, and were engaged in his vineyard. They also gave the ruler their horses on special occasions. Muslim soldiers who were feasting in the house of a Jew could demand money from their host "for causing them toothache." Up to the end of the 1860s the Jews of certain mountain regions in Daghestan continued to pay ransom to the previous Muslim rulers of those regions, or to their descendants to whom the Czarist government has given rights equal to Russian noblemen, leaving the estates in their possession. blood libels occurred in these regions only after they came under Russian rule. In 1814 disturbances occurred as the result of a blood libel in Baku; the Jews affected, mostly originating from Iran, fled to Kuba for protection. In 1878 on a similar allegation, dozens of Kuba Jews were arrested, and in 1911 the Jews of the settlement of Tarki suffered after being accused of kidnapping a Muslim girl. The first contacts between the Mountain Jews and Ashkenazi Jews were established in the 1820s or 1830s. These links were reinforced and became more frequent only after regulations appeared which allowed those Russian Jews permitted to live outside the Pale of Settlement to move to areas where Mountain Jews were living. In the 1870s the chief rabbi of Derbent. R. Jacob Itzhakovich-Yiẓhaki (1848–1917) contacted a number of Jewish scholars living in St. Petersburg. In 1884 R. Sharbat Nissim-Oghly, the chief rabbi of Temir-Khan-Shura, sent his son Elijah to the Higher Technical School in Moscow, and he became the first Mountain Jew to receive higher secular education. In the early 20th century Russian-language schools, where both religious and secular subjects were taught, were opened for Mountain Jews in Baku, Derbent, and Kuba. Already in the 1840s or 1850s the yearning for the Holy Land led some Mountain Jews to Ereẓ Israel. In the 1870s and 1880s Jerusalem emissaries regularly visited Daghestan to collect ḥalukkah money. In the second half of the 1880s a Kolel Daghestan (Daghestan congregation) already existed in Jerusalem. R. Sharbat Nissim-Oghly settled in Jerusalem at the end of the 1880s or in the early 1890s. In 1894 he issued there a brochure, Kadmoniyyot Yehudei he-Harim ("The Ancient Traditions of the Mountain Jews"). In 1898 representatives of the Mountain Jews participated in the Second Zionist Congress in Basle. In 1907 R. Jacob Itzhakovich-Yizhaki moved to Ereẓ Israel and headed a group of 56 founders – mostly Mountain Jews – of the settlement Be'er Ya'akov near Ramleh, which is named for him. Another group tried without success to settle in Maḥanaim in Upper Galilee in 1909–1911. Ezekiel Nisanov, who went to the country in 1908, became a pioneer of the ha-shomer organization and was killed by the Arabs in 1911. His brothers Judah and Ẓevi also joined Ha-Shomer. Before World War I, the number of Mountain Jews in Ereẓ Israel reached several hundred, most of them living in the Beth Israel quarter of Jerusalem. Asaf Pinhasov became an active advocate of Zionism among the Mountain Jews at the beginning of the 20th century. In Vilna he published in 1908 his Judeo-Tat translation from the Russian of Joseph Sapir's book Zionism, the first book published in the language of the Mountain Jews. The varied Zionist activities in Baku during World War I attracted Mountain Jews. After the 1917 February Revolution, these activities gained some momentum. Four representatives of the Mountain Jews, one of them a woman, participated in the Conference of Caucasian Zionists, in August 1917. In November 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power in Baku, but in September 1918 the independent Azerbaijan Republic was proclaimed. These changes left Zionist activity undisturbed up to the second Sovietization of Azerbaijan in 1921. The national Jewish Council of Azerbaijan, headed by Zionists, established the Jewish People's University in 1919 and Mountain Jews were among the students. In the same year the Regional Caucasian Zionist Committee started to issue in Baku a Judeo-Tat newspaper called Tobushi sabahi ("Twilight"). Among the Zionists, Gershon Muradoy and Asaf Pinhasov were outstanding. The Mountain Jews in Daghestan viewed the struggle between Soviets and the local separatists as the continuation of the traditional fight between Russians and Muslims, and they therefore mostly sympathized with the Russians, i.e., with the Soviet rule. Seventy percent of the Red Guards of Daghestan were of the Mountain Jews. The Daghestan separatists and their Turkish supporters, for their part, destroyed Jewish settlements and massacred their population. Consequently   the majority of Jews living in the mountains had to move to towns situated along the coast of the Caspian Sea, mainly to Derbent, Makhachkalah, and Buynaksk. After Soviet power established itself in Daghestan, antisemitism did not disappear. In 1926 and 1929 the Jews faced blood libels, that of 1926 being accompanied by pogroms. In the early 1920s, about 300 families of Mountain Jews from Azerbaijan and Daghestan managed to leave for Palestine. The majority of them settled in Tel Aviv where they established a Caucasian quarter. (One of the outstanding leaders of this immigration was Yehuda Adamovich, father of Yekutiel Adam, deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces who was killed in the 1982 Lebanon War.) In 1921–22 organized Zionist activities among the Mountain Jews were disrupted; immigration to Ereẓ Israel also subsided. In the period between the end of the Civil War in Russia and World War II, the main goal of the Soviet authorities for the Mountain Jews was their productivization and eradication of religious feeling. With the former objective, Jewish collective farms were established. Two Jewish collective farms were founded in the settlements of Bagdanovka and Ganshtakovka where about 320 families worked in 1929. The settlements were situated in the North-Caucasian Territory, presently Krasnodar Territory. In 1931 about 970 Mountain Jewish families were drawn into collective farms in Daghestan. In Azerbaijan collective farms were established in Jewish villages and in the Jewish suburb of the town of Kuba. In 1927 members of 250 Mountain Jewish families became collective farmers in the Republic. However, toward the end of the 1930s the Mountain Jews began to abandon collective farming, although many Jewish collective farms were still in existence after World War II: in the beginning of the 1970s about 10 percent of the community members remained in collective farms. As far as religion was concerned, the authorities preferred not to destroy it immediately, in accordance with their general policy in the eastern provinces of the U.S.S.R., but to undermine religious tradition gradually by secularizing the community. For this purpose a wide network of schools was established, and special attention given to indoctrinating youth and adults in the framework of clubs. In 1922 the first Soviet newspaper in Judeo-Tat appeared in Baku called Karsokh ("Worker"). It was sponsored by the Caucasian Regional Committee of the Jewish Communist Party and its Youth Section. The Poalei Zion newspaper did not find support among the authorities and soon ceased to exist. In 1928 another Mountain Jewish newspaper appeared called Zahmatkash ("The Laborers") and it was issued in Derbent. From 1929 to 1930 Judeo-Tat was given in the Latin script instead of Hebrew, and from 1938 the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet has been used. In 1934 the Tat Literary Circle was established in Derbent, and in 1936 a Tat Section was created in the Union of Soviet Writers of Daghestan. In 1926, the only census that registred Tats, they numbered 25,866, and probably reached 35,000 persons by 1941. Works by Mountain Jewish writers of the period evince strong Communist indoctrination, especially in drama which was considered by the authorities as the most effective propaganda weapon. As a result, amateur theatrical groups proliferated and later, in 1935, the professional Mountain Jewish theater opened in Derbent. During World War II the Germans for a short time occupied the regions of the northern Caucasus populated by Mountain Jews. In those areas with mixed Ashkenazi and Mountain Jewish population – in Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk, and so on – all the Jews were killed. The same fate struck the Mountain Jewish collective farms in Krasnodar Territory, and also the Crimean settlements of Mountain Jews founded in the 1920s. In the regions encompassing the towns of Nalchik and Grozny the Germans were awaiting instructions on how to deal with "the Jewish problem," but these did not arrive before they had to retreat from these areas. After World War II the anti-religious campaign gained momentum. In the period 1948–53 teaching in Judeo-Tat ended, and all the Mountain Jews' schools were conducted in Russian. Zakhmatash no longer appeared and all literary activities in Judeo-Tat were ended. In the latter part of the 1970s, the Mountain Jews became victims of assault in several towns, in particular Nalchik, because of their struggle to leave for Israel. Cultural and literary activities in Judeo-Tat, revived after Stalin's death remained rudimentary in nature. From the end of 1953 up to 1986, two books a year were published on the average. The main – and at times the sole – language of the youth was now Russian. Even the middle generation used the language of their community only at home in the family circle; to discuss more sophisticated topics they had to turn to Russian. This development was most noticeable among the small urban population of Mountain Jews, as for example, in Baku, and also among persons of higher education. Religious tradition suffered, but was still partly retained, especially in comparison with the Ashkenazi community of the Soviet Union. The majority of the Mountain Jews continued to observe customs connected with the Jewish life cycle. The dietary laws are observed in many homes. However, Sabbath observance has been mostly abandoned, and the same is true of the Jewish festivals, except Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, the Passover seder and the eating of matzah. The knowledge of reading prayers and prayer rituals has been also largely lost. Despite all this, the level of Jewish consciousness among the Mountain Jews has remained high and their Jewish identity is being preserved, even by those who formally register themselves as Tats. The mass immigration to Israel was resumed rather later than among other groups of Soviet Jewry; they began to leave not in 1971 but at the end of 1973 and early 1974 after the Yom Kippur War. About 12,000 Mountain Jews had arrived in Israel by the mid-1980s, and from 1989 through 1992 about another 5,000 reached Israel. In 2002, 3,394 were living in the Russian Federation.   -Literature The most important literary heritage of the Mountain Jews is the national epic in Judeo-Tat, Shiraha (the name probably derives from the Hebrew shirah, "poem"), which abounds in biblical associations and figures. One of the most beautiful poems is the "Song of the Mountain Jews," which expresses their yearning for the ancient homeland "so near, in front of your eyes, put out your hand and touch it." It also mentions the "maids of Deborah," the "brave horsemen of Samson," and the "heirs of Bar Kokhba." The epic was translated into Yiddish by the Soviet-Jewish writer M. Helmond. Mishi (Moshe) Bakhsheyev, poet, novelist, and playwright, born in Derbent in 1910, laid the foundations for the modern Tat literature, which began to develop in the 1930s. His publications include "Earth," a play dealing with life on a Jewish kolkhoz, a novel "Cluster of Grapes," and a collection of poetry. Other poets are Amrami Isakov, whose collection of children's songs has been translated into Russian, and Zion Izagayev, who has published three volumes of poems. A literary almanac, Woton Sovetimag ("Soviet Homeland"), the first of its kind in Judeo-Tat, edited by Hizigil (Ezekiel) Avshalomov and published in Makhachkala in 1963, assembled the works of 27 Tat writers, selecting mainly works which reflect the integration of the Mountain Jews in Soviet society. Visitors to the region reported a deep-felt longing for the State of Israel among the Mountain Jews, which became particularly strong after the 1967 Six-Day War, in spite of the official anti-Israel propaganda campaign (see also judeo-tat ). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Altschuler, The Jews of the Eastern Caucasus: The History of the Mountain Jews from the Beginning of the 19th Century (1990); Z. Anisimov, in: Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 18 (1908); D.G. Maggid, Yevrei na Kavkaze (1918); Yu. Larin, Yevrei i Anti-semitizm v S.S.S.R.(1929); M.M. Ikhilov, in: Sovetskaya Etnologiya, 1 (1950); A.L. Eliav, Between Hammer and Sickle (19692), 166–71. (Mordkhai Neishtat / Michael Zand / The Shorter Jewish Encyclopaedia in Russian)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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