Brian J. Boeck, Imperial Boundaries: Cossack Communities and Empire-Building in the Age of Peter the Great.
Oleg Iur'evich Kuts, Donskoe kazachestvo v period ot vziatiia Azova do vystupleniia S. Razina, 1637-1667 (The Don Cossacks from the Taking of Azov to the Razin Uprising, 1637-67). 456 pp., maps. St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2009. ISBN-13 978-5860076136.
Aleksei Gennad'evich Shkvarov, Russkaia tserkov' i kazachestvo v epokhu Petra I (The Russian Church and the Cossacks in the Age of Peter I). 112 pp. St. Petersburg: Aleteiia, 2009. ISBN-13 978-5914192676.
The subject of the Don Cossack Host and its relations with Muscovy and the Crimean Tatars, Nogais, and Kalmyks has always interested readers of Russian history. Some of what has been published on the subject has been distorted by nationalist and Orientalist biases and by resentments born of the Civil War and White Emigration. But serious scholarly study of Don Cossack history has also been reinvigorated in recent years by the publication in 1998 of N. A. Mininkov's Donskoe kazachestvo v epokhu pozdnego srednevekov 'ia (do 1671 g.), which showed that very thorough archival research could reveal a mass of new and more accurate information on the subject. (1)
Oleg Kuts's 2009 monograph Donskoe kazachestvo will likely be recognized as one of the more valuable studies on the Don Cossack Host in the 17th century. It is grounded in extensive research in the archives of the Ambassadors' Chancellery (Posol'skii prikaz) and Military Chancellery (Razriadnyi prikaz), and Kuts uses archival materials to relate many illustrative incidents and to recover the "voices" of Don Cossacks; this is a book made more concrete and vivid by having many people and incidents in it. Kuts is familiar with the published literature on the subject, so his opening chapter on historiography and sources is comprehensive and an indispensable introduction to the subject and its main controversies. He writes clearly and engagingly, and his three maps are detailed but easy to follow.
The history of the Don Cossacks is an enormous and complex subject. (2) To treat it in any but the broadest and most cursory manner requires focusing on particular problems or on a particular period. Kuts notes that past studies on the Don Cossacks, especially those published in the Soviet period, tended to focus on the "military and political history of the Don, often examining Cossackdom through the prism of revolt and antigovernment uprising, in which it was a kind of 'vanguard' of the popular masses" (3). But this approach tended to limit study to a few episodes in Cossack history and to ignore the long periods of peaceful relations between Cossackdom and Muscovy. Kuts therefore chooses to focus on the state of the Don Host over the 1637-67 period--from the Don Cossacks' capture of Azov to the outbreak of the great rebellion led by Stepan Razin. This period saw the establishment of close relations between the Don Host and Moscow, with the state acknowledging particular privileges for the Don Host and taking great interest in Don affairs. For the Don Cossacks themselves this was a period of heightened commercial and military power and offered the opportunity to articulate their political and cultural identity vis-a-vis Muscovy. Focusing on this period allows Kuts to examine Cossack society "not only in its moments of extremity but in its ordinary life" (3-4).
The great upheavals framing this period--the Azov crisis and the Razin rebellion--are not covered in any detail in this volume. They have already received much attention from other scholars (Kuts himself has published before on the Azov occupation), and including these subjects would have greatly expanded the size and cost of his book. (3) As it is, Danskoe kazachestvo offers a good 400 pages of analysis of Don Cossack institutions, economy, and culture.
Kuts begins by examining the problem of the Don trade in the late 1620s and 1630s. One of the consequences of the role of southern frontier cossacks in the insurgencies of the Troubles was the uneasiness that free travel on the Don caused the new government of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich and Patriarch Filaret. The government feared that Don Cossacks coming upriver to trade in the Muscovite garrison towns might turn to brigandage or incite inhabitants to taxpayer flight or desertion from the garrisons; it was also nervous about the frequency with which garrison servicemen joined trade flotillas down the Don or made journeys to work steppe appurtenances (promysly, i.e., beehives, trapping and fishing sites, etc.) in the south, sometimes wintering in the camps and forts of the Don Host and maintaining ties with kinsmen who had abandoned Muscovy to live in the Host. The government responded to the "problem" of the Don trade by trying to place the Don under blockade (1630-38) and by conducting a great sysk (dragnet and interrogations) of Don travelers in 1628-31. About 600 pages of interrogation transcripts from this sysk are preserved in the archives of the Chancellery Bureau of the Military Chancellery (Prikaznyi stol Razriadnogo prikaza). Kuts builds his reconstruction of the Don Cossack condition on analysis of these transcripts. They provide information on the kinds of people traveling back and forth on the Don and suggest how the Host sustained and expanded its population through migration from the Muscovite frontier. Although the Don trade did provide opportunity for servicemen and peasants to flee to the Don Host, most of those interrogated in the sysk were not deserters or fugitives making one-way journeys to the Host but people traveling for a few weeks or months for trade or for tending steppe appurtenances. The majority of travelers were musketeers and service cossacks from the frontier garrison districts; there were also some free itinerants (guliashchie liudi) and a few peasants and cotters. Kuts mines the interrogation transcripts and other sources to reconstruct how the trade flotillas and appurtenance exploitation worked in practice and how Muscovite frontier military colonists and Don Cossacks cooperated to protect their lines of communication against Tatar raiders.
This is followed by a richly detailed chapter on the sources of immigration into the Don Host. It provides further confirmation that the majority of immigrants came from the Muscovite frontier districts on or south of the Oka River. Kuts's sources also provide some suggestive anecdotal evidence about Cossack sons born in the lower Don forts and camps and the presence in these settlements of women--Russian women brought down from the frontier towns and Muslim prisoner women (pl. iasyrki, sing. iasyrka). Kuts finds the average price for a iasyrka was 10-15 rubles (119). The sources suggest the greater number of immigrants to the Don in the 1630s and 1640s were legally free people. Kuts, of course, relates what his sources have to say about the flight to the Don of kholap bondsmen and peasants; it generally reaffirms the picture A. A. Novosel'skii presented earlier? Especially pertinent for those interested in developing the model of the lower Don as a "Middle Ground" between Orthodox Slav society and the Turco-Tatar Dar al-Islam is a section on Tatars living in the Don Cossack settlements; most of these were Astrakhan Tatars, Great Nogais, and Edisan Horde Tatars. Such "Don Tatars" occasionally even participated in the Cossack naval raids on Kerch' and the Crimean coast. Not all Tatars living among the Don Cossacks converted to Orthodoxy; Kuts finds several references to a mullah Chepai-abyz, who served the ataman as a diplomatic intermediary with the Nogais.
Other chapters deal with how Moscow and the Don Cossacks understood the Host as a territory, polity, and sovereignty; the structure and functions of Host administration; and the kinds of military operations undertaken by the Don Cossacks. Kuts finds the scale and complexity of their naval raids impressive, given that the number of military effectives in the Host hovered between just 4,000 and 10,000 men. There is also useful material on Don Cossack economy and the question of juridical and economic stratification within the Host. Kuts departs from Soviet-era tradition by finding little politically significant socioeconomic differentiation before the 1660s, and he attributes its appearance then to reduced opportunity for raiding the Tatars: Ottoman fortifications near the mouth of the Don had made Cossack naval raids more difficult, while many of the Nogai ulusy had withdrawn into the Kuban' steppe.
There are still some topics one wishes could have been treated at greater length. For example, it would be interesting to know how Muscovite subsidy money and materiel delivered by the periodic Don Shipments (Donskie otpuski) were distributed and the extent to which it might have gradually contributed to social stratification and starshina power) We know that the Don Cossacks often served as agents or mediators in the ransoming of captives; how was ransoming organized, and how important was it to the starshina as a source of income? The archives hold many testimonies from cossack merchants, raiders, and escaped captives about sojourns in Tatar and Ottoman lands; are these all laconic and formulaic, or do any of them offer cossack impressions of Turco-Tatar culture and Islam?
The most serious shortcoming of Kuts's study is the lack of attention it pays to persisting differences between the cossack populations of the lower Don and the "Upper Reaches." This makes it more difficult to reconstruct the dynamics of Don Cossack development vis-a-vis Muscovy. Kuts devotes several pages to unpacking the term Donskoe voisko and shows that both the ataman administration in Cherkassk and the tsar's chancelleries in Moscow used it to refer to the Don Cossack population as a whole, those nizovye living in the settlements on the lower Don, as well those verkhovye residing in the Upper Reaches (the northern Don, the Khoper, Medveditsa, Ilovai, Voronezh, and northern Donets, not far south of the Belgorod Line). But this oversimplifies the composite character of Don Cossackdom, for such usage of "Donskoe voisko" was a political convenience for both Muscovy and the Don atamans: Moscow sought the assistance of the atamans in controlling the population of the Upper Reaches, while the atamans claimed such control to enhance the prestige of the Host. Determining just how deeply the scattered settlements of the Upper Reaches participated in the affairs of the Host center on the lower Don is very difficult. We do not know even the approximate size of the population of the Upper Reaches and cannot estimate how many cossacks of the Upper Reaches joined in major expeditions, visited or resided seasonally in the south, or participated in krug assemblies. To date there has been surprisingly little published on the cossack communities in the Upper Reaches, which may have differed in some significant ways from those of the lower Don. Agriculture may have played a larger role in their economy. They may have been more polarized by competition for land and for migrant labor. They may have had looser stanitsa military solidarity. They may have played a larger role in the articulation of cossack religion, Orthodox or Schismatic, for the Upper Reaches held the only cossack monasteries. Certainly the Muscovite government viewed them differently from the Host center on the lower Don, for Moscow repeatedly entreated the atamans to rein them in, and in 1703-5 Peter I called on the Don Host ataman to support a campaign to relocate cossacks from the Upper Reaches to the left bank of the northern Donets and burn their settlements. This cleansing affected several thousand people and helped provoke Bulavin's revolt in 1708, which we should note began in the north, near Bakhmut, and subsequently gave Bulavin power by a coup at Cherkassk. The privileges Moscow recognized for the Host were never fully extended to the cossack settlements of the Upper Reaches, as their proximity to the fortified line districts was viewed as undermining the discipline of the frontier garrison colonies.
A truly comprehensive history of the Don Cossack condition would also devote greater attention to the Host's relationship to the cossacks enrolled in the tsar's service as patrol cossacks, distant-service cossacks, and service land atamans (storozhevye kazaki, palkovye kazaki, pomestnye atamany) performing defense duty on Muscovy's southern frontier. Many of these men were recruited from the free cossack settlements of the Upper Reaches and lower Don. Kuts recognizes that these service cossacks retained kinship ties and frequent communications with Don Host Cossacks, often joined the trade flotillas to the lower Don, and sometimes deserted and fled to the Don. But it was also the case that for some decades service cossacks were allowed to elect their lower officers and to decide some matters in collective krug conclave, that these rights were taken from them in the 17th century, that they tried to reassert them during the southern frontier town mutinies of the late 1640s, and justified their actions by invoking solidarity with the free Cossacks of the Host. In some frontier districts service cossacks and musketeers (the latter, too, often of cossack origin) greatly outnumbered the middle service class deti boiarskie; under some circumstances calls to cossack solidarity could bring them to revolt against the government. Such districts were more likely to side with the first False Dmitrii and with the rebel detachments led by Razin's lieutenants. (6)
Historians studying pre-1648 Ukraine would not make the mistake of treating the Zaporozhian Cossacks, the privileged cossack minority on the Royal Register, or those cossack aspirants of the Settled Lands as one homogenous mass pursuing the same interests. Nor would those studying post-1648 Ukraine ignore the interests dividing the Hetmanate and its regiments from Zaporozhia, or the Left Bank from the Right Bank. Likewise, to understand the dynamics of Don Host relations with Muscovy and the steppe requires that "Don Cossackdom" not be reduced to the Host core on the lower Don.
One factor serving to maintain some Don Cossack antagonism toward the Muscovite government after the suppression of Stepan Razin's revolt was the schism in the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the focus of Aleksei Shkvarov's Russkaia tserkav' i kazachestvo v epokhu Petra I, which examines the Don Cossack inclination to schismatic religiosity (Raskol).
Shkvarov begins by noting the divergent paths of political-religious development of the Ukrainian Cossack Hetmanate and the Don Host. From early on--the 1620s--Ukrainian cossacks supported and closely identified with the confessionalization of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, as this provided them the opportunity to link the defense of Orthodoxy from Uniate oppression to their own struggle for the preservation of "traditional" cossack liberties. This in turn made it possible to form an independent Ukrainian state, the Hetmanate, built on cossack military organization and in proclaimed partnership with the Kiev Metropolitanate. (7) Patriarch Nikon's campaign in the 1660s to confessionalize the Orthodox Church in Muscovy was partly inspired and shaped by Ukrainian church scholarship. But Don Cossackdom played no role in supporting the Nikonian confessionalization; on the contrary, Orthodoxy on the lower Don was far less organized institutionally and intellectually, so by the time Nikonian discipline began targeting the lower Don this region had become a welcoming haven to schismatics of various types. Don Cossack resistance to Moscow's efforts to tighten political control over the Don subsequently linked up with Don Cossack resistance to the Nikonian reforms; defense of the traditional liberties of the Host thereby became equated in the minds of many cossacks with defense of what they understood to be the True Faith against the false church of the Antichrist. Peter I finally broke this resistance--partly through the military suppression of the Bulavin revolt, and partly by augmenting the ecclesiastic authority of Voronezh Metropolitan Pakhomii with the secular imperial authority exercised through the Holy Synod.
It is unclear what new ground this book intends to stake out and cultivate. Shkvarov's book is short--just a hundred pages of text--and relies primarily on published sources, often older prerevolutionary writers (S. G. Svatikov, A. M. Savel'ev, G. Esipov, etc.). It has much less detail about the narrative of cossack-schismatic relations than V. G. Druzhinin's classic Raskol na Donu; and it neither offers close analysis of schismatic texts of Don provenance, nor works to recover the "voices" of Don schismatics from official inquests, nor shows any sign of being informed by the work of the N. N. Pokrovskii school on the intellectual/cultural history of the Schism. (8) It displays some interest in the question of the origins of the Nekrasovite emigration, but that subject has been treated more successfully by Brian Boeck (185-86, 240-42) and D. M. Sen'. (9) Shkvarov's previous publications on the Don Cossacks dealt with Don Cossack military operations and war crimes on the Finnish front in the Northern War; he also authored a novel, Slugi gosudarevy (The Sovereign's Servitors), which had the battle of Poltava as its backdrop; it was recently made into a popular film. (10)
A chapter on religious belief and practice among the Don Cossacks before the reign of Peter the Great follows the example of A. M. Savel'ev and tries to explain the Don Cossack inclination toward schismatic heterodoxy as a legacy of the late 15th-century colonization of the lower Volga and Don by Novgorodian refugees and river pirates, who left a "North Russian stamp" on the Don Cossack religiosity. (11) This is a provocative idea, but it is just thrown out there and left undeveloped. It seems much more likely that schism found refuge on the Don for the simpler reason that before the 18th century the Don had not been integrated into the ecclesiastical structure of the Russian Church and had only limited, sporadic dealings with it. "It did not belong to any bishopric ... [and its] relations with the patriarch were carried on through the Posol'skii prikaz.... Though the patriarch retained the right to appoint priests to the region ... his role was little more than a rubber stamp authority to confirm decisions proposed by the Cossacks themselves" (Boeck, 104).
Brian J. Boeck's Imperial Boundaries is much more useful. Boeck is a young scholar, and Imperial Boundaries is his first book--a reworking of his 2002 dissertation at Harvard University--but it is already establishing him as one of the leading figures in early modern Russian frontier studies and social history. He has deeply mined the archives, reads documents closely and critically, brings to bear theoretical considerations from other study areas and disciplines (subaltern studies, Igor Kopytoff's work on African frontiers, Richard White's concept of the Middle Ground) and writes engagingly. His book is successful especially because it does not treat the Don Host core as a discrete static unity but as a culture formed from shifting patterns of interaction with the Upper Reaches, the Russian state, and the Ottomans, Crimean Tatars, Nogais, and Kalmyks.
Most previous studies of the changing geopolitical significance of the Don Cossack Host focused on its raiding activities and southern frontier defense service in the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the Razin revolt and Don Cossack participation in Peter I's sieges of Azov. Imperial Boundaries summarizes that period of Don Cossack history well, but its larger concern is the period after Razin and the condition of the Host in the early 18th century down to the redrawing of the Black Sea frontier in the 1739 Treaty of Belgrade. It is especially concerned with how Peter I redefined Russo-Cossack relations to serve his imperial program; how the Don Cossacks responded to the advance of Russian colonization toward the southern Don and the stabilization of their frontier with the Crimean khanate; how they coped with the new restrictions on raiding, previously essential to the Cossack economy; and how they found some compensations as steppe conflict shifted eastward to the Tsaritsyn Line, the Kuban' River and the gates of the northern Caucasus.
Boeck's argument is original. He does not insist on the intractability of Russo-Cossack conflict after 1671, but neither does he assume that the starshina's oaths of fealty to Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich quickly transformed the rank-and-file into loyal subjects of the tsar. Conflicts of interest between the Russian government and the Host remained, and new ones emerged with the ban on raiding to reinforce the Constantinople Peace and with Russian efforts to cleanse the Upper Reaches of their unmanageable cossack population. On the whole, however, these conflicts were managed by compromise and negotiation (though the Upper Reaches were sacrificed in the process). The Don Cossacks appear to have accepted the shutdown of their raiding economy with less resistance than the Crimean Tatars or the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Most of the negotiation worked because Peter I had no grand design to destroy the autonomy of the Don Host--he only wanted to establish stable boundaries for the Host and tame it by encasing it in Russian-controlled territory (168)--and because Host atamans like Frol Minaev were astute politicians who knew how to reaffirm their loyalty to Russia while controlling restless Cossack factions in the Host core. By contrast, encasement of the Zaporozhian Cossack Host within Russian imperial territory was not enough; the Sich had to be destroyed in 1775 because its leaders tried to assert their economic autarchy by mobilizing land and refugee labor for their own agriculture and livestock breeding in order to reduce their dependence on food supplies brought in from Ukraine
The striking exception to Don Cossack accommodation to the Russian government in the Petrine era was, of course, the Bulavin rebellion (1708-9). But the Bulavin rebellion did not originate in the Host core on the lower Don; it started in the Upper Reaches, as part of the Upper Reaches' last stand against de-cossackization; and much of the reason Peter I responded so brutally to it was his anxiety that Bulavin might lead the Don Cossacks to join Hordienko's Zaporozhians and Pylyp Orlik in helping Charles XII to victory in Ukraine. (12) Although a few Don Cossacks retaliated by following Ignat Nekrasov into exile among the Tatars and Turks, the suppression of the Bulavin rebellion so devastated the Upper Reaches (where 90 percent of the population was killed or dispersed, by Boeck's estimate) that the Cossacks remaining on the Lower Don were left without the manpower to seriously contemplate challenging the empire again. "The Host became only a shadow of its former self. The sparse survivors of the post-Bulavin Don Host largely succeeded in preserving the 'liberty' and 'expanse' of their fisheries, hay fields, and other resources, which they feared losing on the eve of the conflict, but as a consequence of the uprising, in other spheres they would have to learn to live in government-specified boundaries" (184).
Imperial Boundaries has extensive notes but no bibliography. This is becoming more frequent practice and probably reflects publisher's concerns about declining profit margins. Imperial Boundaries is also available as an e-book.
Boeck's treatment of Russo-Cossack relations is so comprehensive and nuanced that it should be recognized as one of the major contributions in recent years to the study of early modern Russian social history. Together with Serhii Plokhy's The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine, it suggests ways historians could conceptualize an important new project: an integrated comparative history of the cossack phenomenon across eastern Europe, from the Iaik to Ruthenia and Moldavia. Besides speaking to specialists in Russian and Cossack history, Boeck's book should appeal to readers interested in the comparative social and cultural history of frontiers. We look forward to his next work.
Dept. of History
University of Texas at San Antonio
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San Antonio, Texas 78249-0652 USA
(1) Mininkov's book was reviewed in Kritika 4, 3 (2003): 735-46. The author of the review was Brian Boeck, whose own monograph on the Don Host in the Petrine era is under review here.
(2) The cossack condition before the 18th century included those who were members of organized independent hosts; those who lived as ostensible state subjects on the Settled Lands in Ukraine and in southern Muscovy but made their living in the cossack style (volunteer patrol riders, riders, entrepreneurs of steppe appurtenances); and those who were enrolled in the sovereign's garrisons as "service cossacks." For greater clarity, we will therefore capitalize "Cossack" when referring to members of independent hosts (Don, Volga, Iaik, Zaporozhian) and reserve "cossack" for those of the latter two categories.
(3) O. Iu. Kuts, "Azovskaia oborona 1641 g.: Istochniki i khod sobytii," Ocherki feodal'noi Rossii, no. 10 (2006): 111-76.
(4) A. A. Novosel'skii, "Pobegi krest'ian i kholopov i ikh sysk v Moskovskom gosudarstve vtoroi poloviny XVII veka," Uchenye zapiski RANION, no. 1 (1926): 327-54; Novosel'skii,
"Dela o krest'ianstve kak istochnik dlia izucheniia istorii zakreposhcheniia svobodnogo naseleniia na iuge Rossii v XVII veka," Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1962 (1963): 147-55; Novosel'skii, "Otdatochnye knigi beglykh, kak istochnik dlia izucheniia narodnoi kolonizatsii na Rusi v XVII veke," Trudy Moskovskogo gosudarstvennogo istoriko-arkhivnogo instituta, no. 2 (1946): 124-52.
(5) The starshina comprised cossacks of officer rank, who tended to acquire elite status and influence on the basis of military authority and their role in distributing plunder and Don Shipment wealth.
(6) On the service cossacks of the frontier garrisons and their role in the Troubles, see the excellent book by M. Iu. Zenchenko, Iuzhnoe rossiiskoe porubezh 'e v kontse XVI-nachale XVII v. (Moscow: Pamiatniki istoricheskoi mysli, 2008). On the inclination of districts with large service cossack populations toward Razin's revolt, see Brian Davies, "The Razin Rebellion at Tambov and Kozlov, 1671," Russian History/Histoire Russe 34, nos. 1-4 (2007): 263-76.
(7) Serhii Plokhy, The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
(8) V. G. Druzhinin, Raskol na Danu v kontse XVII veka (St. Petersburg: I. N. Skorokhodov, 1889); N. N. Pokrovskii, ed., Khrist 'ianstvo i tserkov'v Rossii feodal 'nogo perioda: Materialy (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1989; Pokrovskii, Anti-feodal 'nyi protest uralo-sibirskikh krest 'ianstaroobriadtsev v XVIII v. (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1974).
(9) D. M. Sen', Voisko Kubanskoe Ignatovo Kavkazskoe: Istoricheskie puti kazaki-nekravsovtsev (1708 g.-konets 1920-kh gg.) (Krasnodar: Izdatel'stvo Kubanskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 2001).
(10) A. G. Shkvarov, Po zakonu i kazach 'emu obyknoveniiu: K voprose o "genotside i voennykh prestupleniiakh" kazachestva v Finliandii vo vremia shvedsko-russkikh voin, XVIII-XIX vv. (Helsinki: RME Group, 2008); Shkvarov, Severnaia voina, 1700-1721: Donskoe kazachestvo na pribaltiiskom teatre (Helsinki: RME Group, 2009); Shkvarov, Slugi gosudarevy (Moscow: Iauza, 2007).
(11) A. M. Savel'ev, Trekhstoletie Voiska Donskogo (Novocherkassk, 1870) was devoted primarily to the political and military history of the Host and relied mainly on published materials.
(12) After Charles XII's defeats at Poltava and Pervolochnia and Mazepa's death at Bender, the task of reviving their struggle against Peter I and uniting with the Crimean Tatars fell to Mazepa's secretary Pylyp Orlik and to Kost' Hordienko, koshevyi otaman of the Zaporozhian Host.
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|Title Annotation:||'Donskoe kazachestvo v period ot vziatiia Azova do vystupleniia S. Razina, 1637-1667' and ' Russkaia tserkov' i kazachestvo v epokhu Petra I'|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2012|
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