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From the history of the Romanian apiculture.

A fragment of fossil rock showing a hexagonal drawing that bears a striking resemblance to a honeycomb has been discovered in Buzau County, Romania, and now it is exhibited in the section of Colti commune from the Buzau County Museum (figure 1). The process of evolution developed in the melliferous bee several morphological and biological traits, which makes it the fittest insect for pollination; the bees need the flowers to live and the flowers need the bees to bear fruits. Thus, the honeycombs, virgin wax and bee larvae started to be used currently as food by the people, meeting the demands of the organism for sweet food. The honey and wax also entered the composition of medicines used to heal sick people [2,3,6,10,14]. Besides the traditional medicine, which used the wax for different cures and household recipes, this product of the bees has also been used to manufacture waxed tablets used to write on. These tablets made in the shape of books, had two, three or even more waxed drawings, bordered by a thin frame of wood to protect the writing made in the wax. The people used an instrument called stylus to write on these tablets (figure 2).



The number of drawings lead to the name of these manufactures dipticus--e.g. with two drawings, tripticus (figure 3)--e.g. with three drawings or polipticus--e.g. with four drawings. The waxed tablets were used for the current correspondence and for miscellaneous notes. Such waxed tablets, of Roman origin, are kept at the Timotei Cipariu Library in Blaj, Alba County. The tablets date back from 133 and 142 and they represent a sales/purchase document. The tablets have been discovered in 1855 in "Saint Ekaterina" mine, Alba County.

The wax was also used to provide light in the house amake magic figurines playing a role in the popular beliefs; after Christianity appeared it was used in large amounts to manufacture candles.

The first written testimonies of the Dacian apiculture are due to the "father of history," Herodotus (485-421 B.C.). On his route to Scythia he had to cross the Istrus (Danube), where he learnt from the Thracians, living on the right bank of the river that the land across the river could not be travelled easily due to the multitude of bees which did not encourage anybody, to go that way. This information must be taken as a testimony of the dispersion of apiculture in ancient Scythia.


The archaeological investigations revealed the existence of apiaries in ancient times. This is only natural if we think that the bees were producing a lot of honey and wax using a wealth of melliferous flora from the forests, hayfields and pastures. This statement also appears in Xenophon's (430-355 B.C.) Anabassis who wrote: ... "the Getians used to eat mainly honey, vegetables, plain or processed milk and very little meat, because their faith in Zamolxes stopped them" [4,6,21].

Academician V. Parvan, archaeologist and specialist in the antique history, speaking of the period after the year 1000, referred to the flourishing of trade: "From the Black Sea and Adriatic to the North Sea and the Baltic, the traffic never stops." Within this context the exchange of goods was very active and the Dacian apicultural products are supposed to have been in great demand.

B. P. Hasdeu in his paper Critical history says that the people living on the Mures Valley were supplying honey and wax to many European villages. Nicolae Iorga, in his paper The Greek Colonies from Dobrogea, vol. 1, wrote that the exchange of grains, honey and wax with Asia was very active. Alexandru Xenopol, in the History of the Romanians wrote: "[.] the Dacians were making agriculture, raising cattle and bees." "[.] the Dacians, were descending in autumn towards the sea to export the wealth of their harvests, honey and bee wax." The special note of this historian shows the bee keeping as the third occupation, which proves that bee keeping was an important branch in the economy of the country. He found the source of information in the paper of the Roman naturalist Aellianus De natura animalium, where he states that the Daco-Getians reared bees for their honey and wax and they were selling the surplus, stressing this by a valuable detail: the honeycombs were an important item of the trade and of the household economy.

The geographer and historian Polibiu from Megalopolis (208-127 B.C.), author of the famous Pragmatic history, shows that in the Pontic and Danubian regions there were exported honey, wax and an assortment of vines.

Burebista, the king who succeeded to join all the Thracian people, facilitated the circulation of the Greek merchants on the waters from Dacia. They were using the Jiu, Olt and Ialomita Rivers, making the Dacian products circulate, the demand for honey and for bee wax being particularly high.

Under the Roman rule, which lasted for 165 years, all the production branches, apiculture included, thrived. The Emperor Traian sent here skilled people, who were using new methods, different from those of the local people.

As the chronicler Miron Costin wrote in his Letopiset, the horse riders travelling at the time Moldavia was established, saw a pillar of smoke, and when they got a large meadow they found a glade and an old man, called Iatcu who was working in the middle of a nice apiary that remained in that place unhindered by the migrating people. For the circulation of these goods, the rulers from Moldavia and Muntenia gave the merchants the right to buy different items among which honey and bee wax. The oldest document is dated January 20th, 1368, when Vlaicu Voda gave the people from Bracov the privilege to trade bee wax which they took from Wallachia, crossed Transylvania and sold it in Hungary. Another document concerning the bee wax originates from Dan Voevod who, in 1384, set a custom due of 12 ducat (golden coin worth 12 francs) for the export of one bee wax maja (a measure of 100 kg).

In 1388, Mircea cel Batran endowed the monastery he established at Cozia with honey and bee wax for the needs of the cult; in 1391 he tax exempted his faithful Stanciu, accepting ".. particularly not to levy tithe from bees". This "particularly" shows how much the bee products worth for the state treasury, so they needed special attention from the ruler of the country; in 1400 Mircea cel Batran gave as gift to Micu Stoian half of Mandra village in the Fagarac country, exempting it from the beehive tithe.

Another document dates from August 1413 and it was issued at Campulung, in which the ruler set customs dues "... for a barrel of honey, 12 ducat; a wax maja, 12 ducat; a barrel of mead, 12 ducat." A new item appeared among the taxable bee products exported from Muntenia: the mead, or hydromel, which was served as drink to Priscus, a Byzantium envoy sent to Attila, who stopped in Banat in his way to the Pannonian Field [1,5,16,18].

The hrisov of Suceava, issued in 1400 by Alexandru cel Bun, concludes a trade convention with the wax merchants from Pocutia, due to he allows the bee wax from Moldova to be collected on condition that in accordance with Bacau's customs they had to pay in a stone of wax, which was a piece of wax of 3.870 kg, also called camana, payment in kind levied on wax trade in Moldova.

In 1421, Radu Voievod, in 1424, Dan the 2nd, in 1431 Alexandru Aldea and in 1437 Vlad Dracu, issued urice (deeds) and hrisoave (documents) concerning customs exempts for beehives or dues for beekeeping.

The documents from Moldova on apiculture show a lot of donations made by the local rulers particularly for "apiary places" given free form the ruler estates to the worthy people and to many monasteries. The hrisov of Suceava issued on August 31, 1429 mentions the gifts Alexandra Voievod gave to Neamt Monastery, the "princely apiary from Zagorna" and the pond with the same name, together with the apiary from Bohotin.

The sons of Alexandru cel Bun, Ilie and Ctefan, followed the good example of their father making donations of apiaries to the worthy ones, which shows the value the princes treasured by this gift that brought large incomes to their recipients.

In 1453, Alexandrel, the son of Prince Petru 3rd, made a donation to the monastery of Probota, established by his grandfather Alexandru cel Bun, giving it a "princely apiary" from Bohotin, and the wax from Tg. Frumos and vine from Cotnari. An interesting hrisov gives Molovita monastery an apiary, exempting it from taxes and customs dues, and specifies "... and when they bring the honey from their apiaries, they will not pay any customs due neither at Iasi, nor any other place; no brodina is to be paid at any ford."

Of the numerous documents of the princely chancelleries, outstanding are those of Prince Vlad Tepec from Muntenia and Ctefan cel Mare from Moldova. The first, showing a keen merchant's spirit regulated the foreign trade of Muntenia because the "thieves were attacking the roads" and the foreign merchants started to avoid coming this way [7,15,19].

Like his predecessors, Vlad Tepec made donations of apiaries to the worthy soldiers, exempting them of taxes and customs fees for the beehives products. For instance, the document of September 20, 1459 rewards Andrei Jora and Drag by giving them taxexempt apiaries.

An important uric (document) with bee keeping specific is dated April 3, 1488, by which Ruler Ctefan cel Mare gave to the Putna monastery ".. .its rightful income, all wax presses and 6 vostinari from Targul Siret and our mills from Siret and Jicov stadifa." The Episcopate of Roman also owned such a press for wax and in 1750, Constantin Racovita compelled all the wax merchants and all apiary owners to use that particular press to squeeze their wax.

Concerning the wax trade, the historian N. Iorga noted that in 1584, a merchant by the name of Sima Nuce, loaded a ship full of wax and took it Venice--Italy.

After the Ottoman domination was installed at the end of the fourth decade of the 16th century, the Romanian Principalities were compelled to supply the court of the Sultan, among other items, with honey and bee wax.

The Hurmuzachi IX 655/9 documents have several statements on the trade of honey and bee wax: "Most of the wax is exported towards Venice and Austria through Ardeal and Galitia, up to 450.000 ocale each year. Starting from 1741, Austria monopolized the bee wax, blocking its transfer towards Italy, despite the insistence of the Venetian representative at the Imperial Court."

Beekeeping was profitable and the people were so much interested in it, that Prince Dimitrie Cantemir passed a law, which stipulated ".a person may not own more beehives than the place he owns may support, so that their multitude does not disturb the neighbours." Heavy dues were levies during this period on the guild members owning many beehives [2,19].

The chronicler Nicolae Costin mentions that in 1700, during the ruling of Constantin Duca Voda, the levies on vacarit (cow rearing) and the gostina for wax turned heavier, as well as the desetina for the beehives [8,20].

In the Romanian provinces beyond the mountains, the action of encouraging and supporting the beekeepers started only in the 18th century. Thus, in 1767, Maria Tereza established at Vienna the first Beekeeping School, which trained people for free. These training courses were attended by numerous beekeepers from Bucovina, Ardeal and Banat. In 1775, the Imperial Chancellery issued a patenta (some kind of decree), which supported and encouraged beekeeping by tax exempting and by other privileges favorable to the development of beekeeping [18,19].

The documents of that time show that in the 18th century in Moldavia and Wallachia there were over one million beehives. A 1763 statistics mentions that there were 670,000 beehives in Moldavia at that time.

Del Chiaro, the Italian secretary of Constantin Brancoveanu, mentioned in his paper on Wallachia that Venice is supplied from here with bee wax and cattle. Raichevich, former Austrian agent in the Romanian Principalities specified, referring to the Romanian bee wax, that ".it is the best and most sought out in all Europe. The amount of wax they harvest is very large."

During this period, the bee wax from Moldova was purchased and exported to Venice by Mihail Tumbru, merchant residing in Bracov. From his personal, incomplete, correspondence one may notice that in 1781 only he exported to Venice over 100,000 kg high quality bee wax.

Parqueville, the French consul at Ianina, noted that 338,700 kg bee wax was bought from Moldova, Wallachia and Bosnia and was transported with caravans.

The first books on beekeeping written in Romanian appeared during this period. Thus, the first beekeeping work, the Economy of Beehives, written by the eminent Romanian intellectual and patriot Ion Piuaru Molnar, appeared in its first edition in 1785. The book was written in Romanian with Cyrillic letters; it has 14 chapters with 43 teachings and is considered so far to be the oldest book on beekeeping in Romania (figure 4).

In the beginning the author writes: ".I felt the duty to teach, besides things which the beekeepers should know, some things proved by many pieces of evidence how to take the bees out of the beehive if they want to take out all the honeycombs, without killing the bees, so maybe this ruthless habit will be unrooted from our lands too."

The author gives the following lectures on the bee wax: ".teaching on how the honeycombs are built, among which: the wise people of this economy say that the bees sweat the wax through the wrinkles of their belly, which are seen as circles and build with it two types of honeycombs--large honeycombs and small honeycombs," ".teaching on how to change the honeycombs: the first year honeycomb is white, tender, thereafter it turns yellow and in two more years it turns brown, thereafter it gets dark because of the heat of brooding and the gaocife still can be seen narrow, and wrinkled.


Several other chapters are teaching on how to cut the honeycombs in the autumn, to fit the honeycombs in the beehives in which you want to capture the swarm, to collect the wax and honey, to take out the bees from the beehive in the autumn, to collect the honey without killing the bees.

The second printed book worthy of consideration is the Bee Farming or Teaching on How to Keep the Beehives in All Places by Ioan Tomici, published in 1823 and written in Cyrillic letters. Some of the book chapters refer to the bee wax: on how to squeeze and curdle the wax; on how to harvest the honey and wax from the beehives; on how to select the honeycombs and press the honey out. Some observations of Tomici are still valid in our days. Thus, "[.] a good and rich beehive gathers over the summer honey and wax more than three or four of the poorer beehives with few bees." The press from Ardeal at that moment, among which the journal Beekeeper, established in 1873 as organ of the Association of the beekeepers from Banat, under the management of Nicolae Grand from Buziac, gives valuable advice and guidance to beekeeping. Vichentie Schelejan, collaborator to this journal, was the first Romanian to attend the international beekeeping meeting hosted by Salzburg in 1872.

The Society of Ardeal Beekeepers was established in 1880 and it owned at Cluj an installation for the production of artificial honeycombs. The beekeepers from this area had the merit to have contributed to the enlargement of the melliferous basis through their endeavour, and through the massive plantations of locust tree in the area of Valea lui Mihai, that location is still an important source of honey.

Sibiu turned a center for beekeeping culture, where many journals and brochures on beekeeping were printed: Manual of Beekeeping by Ion Costin, which recommended the Langstroth beehive; The Book of the Apiarist by Romu Simu, and another book by Augustin Degan; C. Dimian printed at Bretcu in 1887 the Book for Beekeeping and Gh. Miloc from Barna-Lugoj printed the journal Apiculture.

In Muntenia and Moldova, beekeeping lagged much behind and the apiculture books were missing altogether. Only those brought from Ardeal, with a lot of difficulty, brought some light of hope and education for the apiculturists. The people from Ardeal contributed with the first written lectures on the systematic apiculture. In Moldova, in 1829, at Iasi, Gh. Asachi printed the journal The Romanian Bee, journal of general culture, in which beekeeping held its place. The program sketched by Asachi stated, "...rightful writers will teach on the agricultural economy, on the work of the field, trees, vineyards and beehives." This old journal holds a lot of precious pieces of advice for the apiarists.

Until 1889, all the periodicals published in Muntenia and Moldova, such as the The Friend of the Agriculturist, the People's Gazette, the Peasant's Gazette, the Journal of the Central Society for Agriculture, the Paper of the Popular Sciences, included many articles on bees, honey and bee wax. During 1893-1899, the Ministry of Agriculture promoted strongly the development of apiculture and even started to publish small propaganda brochures. Thus, in 1894, M. Popescu printed a brochure with the title of Beekeeping; in 1896, Pahome Stoenescu printed at Ramnicu Valcea the brochure with the title of Modern apiculture, while in 1898, Ion Petculescu printed at Pitecti the Guide of the Apiarist.

R. Begnescu, hosted apiculture training course throughout the year, each teaching cycle lasting 15 days. This was the official start of the apicultural education in Romania, and the Course of Rational Beekeeping has been printed out. In 1906, on the occasion of the apicultural exhibition, R. Begnescu presented for the first time in Romania a systematic beehive [6,7].

In 1903, Drosini translated a beekeeping brochure from Greek and in 1904 there appears another translation in this field, by I. Radian. In 1905, V. Moga printed the Bee Farming. Finally, in 1907 there was published the Apiarist's Guidebook written in plain Romanian by N. Nicolaescu and I. Stoenescu, which received an award from the Romanian Academy. The book was printed in 11 editions, each time bringing new materials and valuable recommendations [11,12,19]. In 1915, C. Hanganu started a vivid apicultural activity at Iasi when he realized that the progress in beekeeping is closely related to the improvement of the equipment used by the process of apicultural production. To this purpose, Hanganu established at Iassy a shop for equipment: an installation for the production of artificial honeycombs was functioning in that shop.

The first National Congress on apiculture took place on December 21, 1915; and as an outcome the National Journal of Apiculture was released. Dr. Florin Bengescu appeared in the apicultural press during the same year; for over three decades he ran the Journal of Veterinarian Sciences, where apiculture had its place. Dr. Florin Bengescu supported the apiculturists by offering them his professional observations in publications such as: Beekeeping, the Richness of the Villager; Systematic Apiculture; Bees and beekeeping in Romania; Bee Farming; Bees and Agriculture; Home of the Bees; Contagious Diseases of the Bees, Apicultural Spelling Book and many articles in different publications.

In 1922, a school of apiculture has been established at Targu Frumos; it was headed by D. Stamatelache who also edited a journal called the Bulletin of the Apiculturist, to which contributed a large number of beekeepers (figure 5).

The Central Romanian Society of Apiculture has been established in 1925 at Bucharest and the members decided to print a new specialized journal, the Apicultural Romania.

C. Hristea's Beekeeping was published in 1935; it is a valuable 960 pages book, with 400 drawings, presented in a charming dialogue. The book had two editions and it was a thorough guide for many generations of apiculturists. In 1979, its last reviewed and updated edition, the New Beekeeping, was published, a very complex and updated work [12].


Until 1930, the scientific apicultural research in Romania did not have an organized framework, even though many valuable apiculturists and practicians asserted themselves as observers, experimenters and promoters of the most advanced techniques and scientific methods in apiculture.

As already mentioned, in 1930, the apicultural research started to become institutionalized and acquired an organized framework by establishing the apiculture department within the National Romanian Zootechnics Institute, which in 1947 became the Institute of Zootechnical Research.

Another stage is the establishment of the Central Station for Apicultural and Sericultural Research, which functioned between in 1957-1974. As of 1971, the apicultural research has been conducted within the Beekeepers' Association Centre of Studies, Design and Teaching.

A higher stage started in 1974 when, Decree 139 of the State Council of Romania established the Beekeepers' Association Institute for Apicultural Research. Later it developed its activity and completed its title with Apicultural Research and Production, institute included within the network of research units of the Ministry of Agriculture. During this period numerous scientific researches were conducted in various areas of apiculture.

An important role in the development and modernization of the Romanian beekeeping was played by the Romanian Beekeepers' Association, which acted efficiently to organize, guide and train the beekeepers from Romania. "The Romanian Beekeepers' Association" established on December 30, 1957, as a collective organisation of the beekeepers, with its own statute and juridical personality. The contribution of the "Romanian Beekeepers' Association" to the development of national apiculture was displayed in all the areas of this occupation thus supporting the organization of the beekeepers; developing the love for this occupation; guiding and training the beekeepers; providing proper technologies for bee families rearing and exploitation; underlining the production diversification and higher utilisation of the apicultural products; working on prevention and control of diseases and protection of the bee families against intoxications with pesticides; supplying with equipment; growth promoters and materials for applied beekeeping; organizational, technical, dissemination and economic measures for the association of beekeepers according to the provisions of the status.

More than 30 years the association managed to include in its ranks most of the professional and amateur beekeepers throughout the country's counties and to contribute directly to the development of apiculture and to the international assertion of the Romanian apicultural science and practice. Currently, of the about 80,000 Romanian apiculturists, over 70,000 are members organized in the 41 county branches and over 1,300 apicultural circles of the Beekeepers' Association.

Over the same period, the number of bee families increased from 571,000 at the beginning of 1957 to 1,348,000 at the beginning of 1987, which is a 136% increase. The total honey production also increased from 2,724 tons in 1957 to 15,500 tons in 1987, which is a 569% increase. The wax production increased from 53 tons in 1957 to 300 in 1987, which is an increase of 566%. One of the most important achievements of the Romanian Beekeepers' Association is the Bucharest Apicultural Complex, which currently integrates the apicultural production with the scientific research and professional training. By the volume and diversification of the production and by the constructive architecture, this apicultural complex is a worldwide single [9,17].

The premises of this apicultural complex located in northern Bucharest harbours today the activity of three specialised institutions: the Apicultural Aggregate Works, the Research and Production Institute for Apiculture and the Agro-Industrial High School (apicultural profile). Also on this premises, in a new and modern specially built building, there functions the Research and Production Institute for Apiculture with its laboratories that conduct scientific studies and research. The themes of scientific research cover a wide range of issues concerning the selection and improvement of the local biological material; creation of highproductivity new lines and hybrids of the Carpathian bee; methods to improve the melliferous basis and the directed pollination of the entomophilous agricultural crops by bees; economic exploitation of bees both in the apiaries of the amateur beekeepers and in the large, intensive apicultural exploitations; design of new apicultural equipment; elaboration of new drug preparations to control bee diseases; use of apicultural products to support human health.

Currently Romania uses systematic beehives, as more than 60,000 apiarists did, and the sold honey production increased to over 16 kg/beehive; about 2% of the rural population had beehives. In 1958, the Romanian Beekeepers' Association joined the International Federation of the Apicultural Associations--APIMONDIA--and hosted in Bucharest, in 1965, the 20th jubilee International Congress of Apiculture and the first International Apicultural Exhibition.


[1.] Antonescu C., (1979). Albinele $i...noi. Redactia publicatiilor apicole [We and ... the Bees], Bucharest, APIMONDIA Publishing House.

[2.] Aron Ion (1907). "Istoria albinei si rolul ei in economia si educatia poporului." [The History of Bees and Their Role in the Economy and the People's Education], Gazeta Transilvaniei, Bracov, no. 149, p. 6.

[3.] Avetisian G.A. (1978). Apicultura, APIMONDIA Publishing House, Bucharest.

[4.] Bartos Gh., (1969). Vechimea albinaritului la romani. Culegere de materiale privind istoria agriculturii in Romania "Terra noastra", vol. I, 123 - 131, Bucharest.

[5.] Bartos Gh. (1972). "Comertul cu ceara intre Tarile Romane si Venetia in secolele XVI-XVIII" [Wax Trade between Romanian Principalities and Venice during 16th and 18th Centuries], Apicultura in Romania, no. 11 $i 12.

[6.] Begnescu Fl., (1926). Albinele ci albinaritul in Romania [The Bees and Beekeeping in Romania], Bucovina Publishing House, Bucharest.

[7.] Begnescu Fl., 1929. Note asupra albinelor ci albinaritului in antichitate [Remarks on Bees and Beekeeping in Antiquity]. Dupa scrierile autorilor greci si latini. Trad. dupa Billiard Raymond, Galati.

[8.] Candrea I. A., Desu^ianu Ov., 1907, 1914. Dictionarul etimologic al limbii romane. Elementele latine. Bucharest, Socec Publishing House, p. 46

[9.] Crane Eva, (1979). Mierea, APIMONDIA Publishing House, Bucharest.

[10.] Curca D., Andronie Ioana Cristina, Andronie V., (2008). "From the History of the Romanian Apiculture," XXXVIII International Congres of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine, September 11^-13^2008, Engelberg-Elvetia, Proceedings p. 150-156.

[11.] Foti N., (1974). "Primele organizatii apicole si aparitia celor dintai publicatii in Banat si Transilvania." Comunicare prezentata la deschiderea solemna a celei de-a IlI-a Conferinta a apicultorilor $i Aniversarea centenaruluiprimelor asociatii apicole din Romania, 26 august, Bucharest.

[12.] Hristea C., (1976). Stuparitul nou. Redactia publicatiilor apicole, Bucharest.

[13.] Ialomiteanu M., 1978. Polenul, aliment-medicament valoare biostimulentaci terapeutica. APIMONDIA Publishing House, Bucharest.

[14.] Lupcan V. I., (2001). Introducere in istoricul apiculturii romanecti. EfiRom Publishing House, Bucharest

[15.] Malaiu A., (1971). Stuparitul, Ceres Publishing House, Bucharest.

[16.] Marza E., (1966). Cartea apicultorului, Agro-Silvica Publishing House, Bucharest.

[17.] Marza E., (1979). 'TDin istoria cercetarii stiintifice in apicultura romaneasca," I.C.P.A., Anale, vol. I.

[18.] Nistor I., (1991). "Cultura materiala" IstoriaBucovinei, Bucharest, Humanitas Publishing House, p. 84-89,

[19.] Paiu C., (1974). "Apicultura in Moldova si Tara Romaneasca cu primele lor asociatii si publicatii apicole," Comunicare la a III-a Conferinta a apicultorilor si Aniversarea centenarului primelor asociatii apicole din Romania, Bucharest.

[20.] Puscariu Sextil, (1905). "Studii si notite fiolologice. Etimologii: Albina," in Convorbiri literare, year 39, no. 1, p. 50

[21.] Volcinschi Tr., (1988). Ceara--A.C.A., Centrul de Material Didactic si Propaganda AgrIcola, Redactia de propaganda tehnica agrIcola, Bucharest.


(1) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Agronomic and Veterinary Medicine, Splaiul Independentei Street 150, Bucharest, Romania

(2) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, SPIRU HARET University, Masina de Paine Street 47, Bucharest, Romania
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Date:Mar 1, 2011
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