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[Ukrainian Statehood in the Twentieth Century: Historical and Political Analysis. Kyiv: Political Thought, 1996. pp. 157-170.]

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Ukraine in Hungarian Plans and Doctrines


The main elements of the Hungarian national idea, as it took shape in the nineteenth century, were intolerance to Slavdom, Pan-Slavism, and Daco-Rumanianism, preservation of a united and indivisible Hungary, the determination not to allow its transformation into a federal state or the ethnic minorities' winning autonomy, securing Magyar hegemony within historical Hungary, and seeking compromise with the Habsburgs against the national aspirations of the Slavic and Romanian peoples.

The Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49 exacerbated interethnic rivalries in the Habsburg lands. Lajos Kossuth's plans to create a unitary, monolingual state in the historic Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen (historic Hungary: contemporary Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, the Serbian Voevodina, Rumanian Transylvania, and Ukrainian Transcarpathia) were opposed by indigenous Slavs and Rumanians. Thus, when the Compromise of 1867 created the Dual Monarchy and ceded the Magyar aristocracy home rule in these lands, an integral part of the official Hungarian national idea was to at all costs avoid the danger of parts of the Kingdom ever falling under non-Magyar rule and to artificially safeguard the dominance of the Magyar national element. /158/

1. Hungarian Statehood and the Ukrainian Question in the First Third of the Twentieth Century

Beginning with the second half of the nineteenth century, Hungary pursued a policy of purposeful Magyarization and denationalization of subject nations and nationalities. In the period between 1860 and 1914, 200,000 Rusyns/Ukrainians living along the Tisza river and in the region of Zemplin were Magyarized. By the turn of this century, all urban centers in the Carpathian region had lost their national identity and been transformed into centers of Hungarian culture and the Magyarization of the Hungarian Kingdom's eastern regions. From the beginning of the twentieth century the Orthodox liturgy was conducted only in Latin, the number of schools with instruction in the Rusyn language dropped to 14 percent, while Rusyns in the region accounted for 70 percent of the population. Under the Apponyi law, from 1907 on all Rusyn schools were to be closed without exception, book publishing in Rusyn was prohibited, and in schools the Latin alphabet supplanted Cyrillic. However, the forced assimilation and the desire to "simplify" the national and ethnic situation faced powerful resistance from the Rumanian and Slavic peoples and this became the catalyst for anti-Habsburg and anti-Hungarian movements.

The 1918-1919 revolution in Austria-Hungary gave birth to new political and national aspirations: Hungarians, Ukrainians, and other Slavs struggled to establish their own independent states, while the Rumanians of Transylvania joined Rumania. Precisely in 1919-1920 relations between Hungary and Ukraine developed most rapidly.

The Ukrainian question was first raised in Hungary at a state level and as a separate problem of Eastern Europe early in 1918 in connection with the proclamation of independence of the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) and the signing on February 9, 1918, of the Brest-Litovsk Peace /159/ Treaty with the Central Powers, including Austria-Hungary. Under the Treaty, Ukraine was recognized only within nine provinces which were broken away from the Russian state. Ukraine's attempts in 1918 to make Austria-Hungary cede Galicia, Bukovina, the Kholm region, Bessarabia, and Transcarpathia to Ukraine, where the Ukrainians were a majority, was fiercely resisted by the Habsburg monarchy, which denied Ukrainians in those regions their right to selfdetermination.

Unlike Hungary, Austria took a more moderate stand on the Ukrainian question. Since Habsburg's eastern policy was determined by Hungary, the latter's position on Ukraine was decisive for Vienna. Budapest's policy was based on the assumption that the emergence and existence of a Ukrainian state would be a dangerous precedent for the multinational monarchy. A concept of the inviolability of Austria-Hungary's eastern borders, worked out by the Hungarian government in April 1918, became the cornerstone of Vienna's position on the Ukrainian question. Accordingly, Russia, Romania, and Ukraine were regarded as especially threatening nations. Ukraine was considered the potentially greatest menace and rival, for in its striving to unify its ethnic territories into a single state it threatened the eastern borders of Austria-Hungary. In contrast to those three countries, and especially Ukraine, Hungary most actively favored the revival of Poland, which it hoped would extend its borders as far as possible to the East, deep inside the Ukrainian lands, thus helping to play down Ukraine's claims on Galicia, Bukovina, and, especially, Transcarpathia.

In the period of the people's democratic and socialist republics in Hungary in 1918-1919, Hungarian-Ukrainian relations became more equal. Hungary responded positively to the forming of an independent Ukrainian state, although the two countries failed to agree on the Transcarpathian issue. The Hungarian side (M. Karolyi, S. Garbalyi, and B. Kun) insisted in 1919 on the official recognition of Transcarpathia as part of the Hungarian Republic in the /160/ form of autonomy proclaimed on December 21, 1918, while Ukraine stated that it would have no objection if Transcarpathia's Rusyns/Ukrainians decided to join Ukraine. As is known, in accordance with the Entente's decision of May 8, 1919, Transcarpathian Ukraine, despite the fact that Rusyns accounted for 68 percent of the population, Hungarians 19%, while Czechs and Slovaks comprised only 3-4%, became part of Czechoslovakia, and this was incorporated into the Trianon Peace Treaty of June 4, 1920.

Disregarding the unresolved problem of Transcarpathia, Hungary in 1918-1919 viewed the Ukrainian People's Republic and the West Ukrainian People's Republic (ZUNR) among its most important allies, and the Ukrainian issue for the first time became one of the top priorities on Hungary's foreign policy agenda. S.Garbalyi's socialist government supported the unification of socialists and communists, in order to act jointly in the interests of the Ukrainian people. In the spring of 1919, the Hungarian socialist government put forward a proposal for joint talks between the Ukrainian Directory, Soviet Ukraine, and the West Ukrainian People's Republic on how to unite Ukraine and Galicia into a single socialist state and to form a Ukrainian coalition government, consisting of representatives of Ukraine's left forces headed by Social Democrats. This good-faith Hungarian initiative on the Ukrainian question failed, for Soviet Russia refused to recognize the independent Ukrainian socialist state and imposed communist rule on Ukraine by force.

The Treaty of Trianon proved to be the most unjust peace accord of the Versailles system, and it is small wonder that in Hungary there was not one political force which thought otherwise.

Hungary began to actively seek international support to review the Trianon Treaty, courting this time only influential forces and nations, while the unpromising Ukrainian question was ignored. Admiral Horthy was quick in deciding to trade off the Ukrainian national liberation struggle in /161/ 1919-1921, and as early as 1923-1924 there were signs of a secret Russo-Hungarian rapprochement to exert joint pressure on Rumania. This led to an automatic suspension of the de-facto recognition of the UNR mission in Budapest which had been active there from 1918 until 1924.1 From that time on, the Ukrainian question was crossed off the Hungarian foreign policy agenda until the Munich crisis of 1938. In that period Ukraine was viewed only within the framework of general Russian or Polish affairs. And in those cases, when the Ukrainian liberation struggle forced Hungary to define its position with regard to Ukraine (the late 1930s), it took an anti-Ukrainian stand, for any strengthening of Ukrainian forces ran counter Hungary's designs to dominate the region.

Starting in the 1920s, a separate policy line toward Ukraine gradually took shape, and study began of the history of the Ukrainian nation and liberation movements. Hungary was especially concerned with the fact that the Ukrainian national idea won recognition in the whole of Central and Eastern Europe, had a firm basis in Galicia, Transcarpathia, and that this movement had been supported by Germany and Austria. In the interwar period, Transcarpathian thought was dominated by the idea of the Carpathian region as the Piedmont of the Ukrainian liberation struggle and guarantor of Ukrainian statehood. As never before, the Hungarian irredendist striving to review the Trianon Treaty clashed with the goals of the Ukrainian liberation movement. The Ukrainian idea stood in the way of Hungary's bringing Transcarpathia back to the bosom of historical Hungary.

Hungarian observers unanimously pointed out that the major reason for the fall of the 1918-1921 Ukrainian state was an unfavorable international situation: Russia, Poland, and the Entente had actively worked against it.

Hungarians began to envision the development of the Ukrainian perspective in the direction favorable to Hungary: since after the fall of the Ukrainian People's Republic /162/ Ukraine had been partitioned by the Entente and Russia and distributed among the Allies (Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania), these powers would do everything possible to prevent the formation of a single Ukraine.

None of these countries would welcome a solution of the Ukrainian question, for the objective of the all-Ukrainian movement was to reunite Russian-ruled Ukraine, Galicia, Transcarpathia, Bukovina, and other lands, tightly held by other nations, into a single state.2 The Ukrainian movement, whatever colors it might assume, was regarded in Hungary as a peculiar manifestation of Pan-Slavism, hostile to Hungary, Poland, and Romania rather than a national liberation struggle. Specifically, such Hungarian politicians as I. Egrita and I. Fenczik argued that this movement would clash in the future with Hungarian interests in the Carpathians, and hence that Hungary could not support it, even if it were supported by Germany and Austria: "A Ukrainian state, whether in alliance with Germany or independent, means harm and danger for Hungary."3

Particular attention was focused on the Carpathian region, which had for centuries been a natural and political bulwark protecting Hungarian and Polish interests against Russian Pan-Slavism.

The administrative, religious, land, and school reforms undertaken in Transcarpathia in 1924-1926 completely undermined the dominance of the Hungarian landed gentry, Catholicism, the Hungarian language and culture, and thereby fostered processes of Ukrainian national revival. Due to the Ukrainization of the region, most of the 750,000 Carpathian Rusyns became aware of their Ukrainian national identity. After a millennium of dominance of the Hungarian idea of the integrity of the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen, this constituted a watershed event. Czechoslovakia's pro-Ukrainian reforms in what was then known as Subcarpathian Rus' called forth official Hungarian protest, for they were actually directed against Hungary. In /163/ labeling the Ukrainization of the region "Bolshevization," Hungary argued on the international arena that Czechoslovak reforms actually facilitated the expansion of communism and Russian Pan-Slavism in Central Europe.

The most serious blow to Hungarian interests in the Carpathian region, was dealt by the 1924-1925 agrarian and school reforms. Huge expanses of land previously owned by Hungarians (over 1.6 million hectares) were redistributed to Slovaks and Rusyns who en masse left mountainous areas and settled on the plains among Hungarians. The introduction of largely Ukrainian and Rusyn language schools in the region (whose share increased from 14 to 74 percent) transformed the Transcarpathian Rusyns into nationally conscious Ukrainians committed to the idea of creating a Ukrainian state, while pro-Hungarian forces in the late 1930s lost their local dominance. It was no accident that political circles in Hungary resorted to active confrontation, which became "one of the most important foreign policy tasks"4 and undertook to refine their policies in the Ukrainian question.

The new approach consisted in extensive dissemination in the Carpathians of Rusyn ideology and propaganda, which might drive a wedge between nationally (Ukrainian) and locally (Rusyn) oriented elements of the local Slavs. Rusyns were also set apart from Galicians and Ukrainians as a whole, for, ostensibly, they had developed as distinctly different nations. Russians and Ukrainians living in the USSR were treated as the bearers of Bolshevism, and Galician Ukrainians as an offshoot of the Polish ethnic group. It was maintained that Rusyns in the Carpathians should be identified as a separate nationality which objectively gravitated toward Hungary.

In interwar Hungarian geopolitical doctrines, the Carpathian region (Transcarpathia and Galicia) were to remain only in the hands of Hungary and Poland, because Hungarian politicians maintained that the two countries constituted the only indomitable defenders of European civi-/164/lization and Christianity from Eastern barbarians, Turkey and Russia, at the crossroads of the cultures of Europe and Asia. In the mid-1930s Hungarian Prime Minister G. Gambesz emphasized that Hungarians defended not only themselves but also the whole of the higher European civilization. Along with the Polish people, Hungarians had been created by God "for the mission of guiding and ruling over the Oriental races."5 Only if Poland agreed to the establishment of a Ukrainian state as a buffer between it and Russia, would Hungary support it as long as it served Polish interests.

2. Hungarian Geopolitical Strategy During the World War II

In 1938-1941 Hungarian approaches to the Ukrainian question were imbued with a caution born from taking into account German strategy. Its major points were to recover Transcarpathia, to come to a rapprochement and even alliance with Ukraine, if such a state should arise due to German assistance, for such a Ukraine would be a German protectorate. Budapest also realized that Ukraine, should it gain Soviet Ukraine, would be stronger than the entire Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Yugoslavia). Thus, Ukraine could become an ally of Hungary, in order to jointly confront the latter. Warnings were voiced against opposing the establishing of a Ukrainian state, for its population of 35-40 million would overcome all obstacles and, hence, it would be wiser to form an alliance with Ukraine from the very beginning of its existence.6 However, this vision of Ukraino-Hungarian friendship was not to be realized.

In 1938-1939, the major objective of Hungary's strategy became to seek review its northeastern borders and to recover its historical lands in Slovakia and the Carpathian region. The Munich crisis dramatically stimulated political processes in this part of Europe. In October 1938, a powerful political organization the Ukrainian National "Associ-/165/ation (UNA), headed by A. Voloshyn and F. Revai was formed in Transcarpathia. The UNA proclaimed as its goal the creation of a Carpatho-Ukrainian state, united all nationally conscious forces in the region, distanced itself from Czech, Hungarian, and Russian interests, and made the idea of Ukrainian statehood and national independence the sole motivation of its activities. On March 15, 1939, in Khust the Transcarpathian Soym (Parliament) proclaimed the independence of the Carpatho-Ukraine according to the principles of the 1918 Ukrainian People's Republic. On that same day, Hungarian troops invaded and within a few weeks annexed the Carpatho-Ukraine to Hungary. The heroic resistance of the less than 15,000 Carpathian Sich riflemen to the offensive of the 150,000-men regular Hungarian army had been doomed from the outset. The drawing of a common border with Poland "became the highest achievement of Hungary in central Europe."7

The annexation of the Carpathian region by Hungary, as was held in Budapest, "ushered in a new millennium of the Hungarian-Rusyn fraternity" and did away with the twenty years of Czech and five months of Ukrainian dominance in the region, for, allegedly, Rusyns had nothing in common with Ukrainians except for the fact that both peoples were Slavic. Between them stood "the solid insurmountable wall of a millennium of Magyar-Rusyn fraternal history."8

The struggle to join Carpathian Rus' to Hungary was waged under slogans of autonomy for the region, but in the summer of 1940 this phrase was discarded, for Hungary found itself in close proximity to the USSR, and the potential threat increased: it was one matter to speak of Carpathian Rus' autonomy with Poland as one's neighbor and quite another matter to deal with a USSR that had gained access to the Carpathians.

In 1939-1944, the cultural and spiritual life of the Czechoslovak period came to a standstill, and all Ukrainian organizations which professed the Ukrainian idea and the unification of all Ukrainian lands were eventually dissolved. /166/ All activities of communist, Ukrainian nationalist, and Sich riflemen organizations were banned as well, and their members were to be arrested and banished from the region, supplanted by newly-organized Hungarian and Ruthenian organizations which spoke for inviolable unity with Hungary and to whom any thought of the common ancestry of Rusyns and other Ukrainians was alien.

The Soviet reality which confronted Hungarian soldiers and politicians during World War II, largely on the territory of Ukraine, served only to reinforce their certainty of the barbarity of Russian Bolshevism. They had never seen a more depressing picture anywhere. After the Stalinist inquisition of the 1930s, Ukraine was in a terrible state. A nation of forty million, so much spoken about in Europe, seemed to have vanished altogether. The Bolsheviks seemed to have exterminated all Ukrainians capable of building a nation. "Now," M.Kosma, Horthy's Transcarpathian representative, told the local population in the autumn of 1941, "nothing is left of the Ukrainian nation, except the mass of people, utterly deprived of its brain-center and national leaders." After the torments inflicted by Russia, one could hardly speak about a Ukrainian national liberation movement in Soviet Ukraine. Under the circumstances, it was argued, Rusyns who had lived 700 years in the Hungarian state had only one option: to flee to the Carpathians to seek asylum there and under the Hungarian flag find refuge from extermination by the Russians. For if Rusyns had found themselves under the power of Russian or Ukrainian Bolshevism, they would have been quickly assimilated because of their linguistic proximity and the small size of their population.9

Hungary's active participation in the German war against the USSR was primarily motivated by its interests in Ukraine, specifically in destroying the USSR along with the elimination of the Slavic threat and consolidating Hungary's position in the region.

Hungary attained its military and political objectives primarily on ethnically Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainians' /167/ very presence in and proximity to the Hungarians led the latter to view the Ukrainian ethnic group in the Carpathians as a threat to Hungarian interests, especially given their being on opposite sides in the war.

The Hungarian government several times (in 1940 1942) analyzed a General Staff proposal to resettle the Carpathorusyns to Galicia or deep inside Hungary, but no decision was made. Until mid-1942, Hungary attempted to bisect Galicia into two parts: a southern one to be annexed, while leaving the north to Germany. This was planned in order to reinforce the security of Hungary's eastern borders and to weaken Galicia as a stronghold of the Ukrainian liberation struggle exerting great influence over the Transcarpathian Rusyns. In July 1942, Berlin refused to approve the project. These and other problems hinged on the outcome of the war against the USSR, and their solution was postponed until the postwar period.10

In the course of the war, over 900,000 Hungarian soldiers and officers were stationed or passed through the territory of Ukraine, half of Hungary's Armed Forces. Hungarian wartime military-political ideas were effected largely on ethnic Ukrainian lands. The defense of the lower Carpathians (Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, and Transcarpathia) by the 320,000 strong First Hungarian Army from April until October 1944 was the most hard fought and serious battle during the final stage of the war.

For the first time, Hungarians used to their advantage the confrontation between the Russian and Ukrainian ideas. In the first half of 1944 the Hungarian military concluded a neutrality agreement with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in Western Ukraine, and in July 1944 signed an accord with the UPA proving for a truce between them and mutual assistance in the struggle against their common enemy, Bolshevik Russia.

The UPA general order No. 896 (July 1944) explained the reason for this military-political armistice. In exchange for Hungarian military assistance, the UPA High Command /168/ publicly announced the establishment of good-neighbor relations with Hungary at the price of ceding Carpathian Ukraine. The Hungarian side had agreed to give arms and medicine to UPA detachments and signed a peace accord with the UPA leadership only because the UPA recognized Carpathian Ukraine as part of Hungary. "One cannot fight insanely over a tiny plot of land (the Carpathian region)," the order stated, "and simultaneously give away our sacred Motherland, territorially larger than France, to Moscow."11

However, the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council formed in July 1944 rejected the UPA High Command decision that there were no territorial claims against Hungary and issued a statement recognizing "the right of any people to its own state on its ethnographic lands."12

The destiny of Transcarpathia was decided in June 1945 (as in 1919) by the victorious powers this time in favor of the Ukrainian SSR, taking into account the numerical superiority of the Transcarpathian Rusyns over Hungarians and Slovaks.

Hungary lost 1.3 million people, and all annexed territories were returned to neighboring countries, in accordance with the 1920 Trianon Treaty. Hungary also lost its influence on the territories of all its neighbors. A third of all Hungarians found themselves outside Hungary.

The victorious Soviet Union drew its western borders and policies in East Central Europe in its own interests. Galicia, Bukovina, Transcarpathia, Bessarabia and the Ismail region were transferred to Soviet Ukraine. As in East Central Europe as a whole, a Soviet-type socialist regime was established in Hungary.

After the war, only few well-known scholars and men of letters (G. Szaroz, F. Glac, I. Czurka) openly sought foundations for realizing the Hungarian national state idea in the new situation, while the political system very quickly discarded its former ideals and rather slowly elaborated new spiritual principles of Hungarian existence. On the international arena, Hungary did not raise any question which could run counter /169/ to the interests of the neighboring countries or threaten the inviolability of their borders. Meanwhile, internally the political elite tried to find a way out of their desperate situation. Hungarians maintained that the unjust 1920 Trianon Treaty was in fact renewed in 1947 on even worse terms, and they could not reconcile themselves to it.

3. Hungarian Policy Toward Independent Ukraine

Its wartime national catastrophe compelled Hungary to radically review its former policies and change its strategy. In the second half of the twentieth century, Hungary gradually repudiated its interwar blunders, rejected the concept of an armed revision of borders, discarded the goal of forming a Hungarian state within the "St. Stephen" framework, and began to actively seek reconciliation with Slavdom, Rumanians, and to overcome the legacy of official anti-Semitism.

Only in the 1990s, after its social system had been transformed and a new democratic order established, did Hungary begin to shape a truly independent foreign policy. Its most essential elements are recognition of inviolability of borders, reciprocity, the integration of Hungary into the European Union, the wish for rapprochement with and eventual entry into NATO, and the protection of Hungarian minority rights only through mechanisms of international law.

Despite the fact that Hungary has renounced its interwar irredentism, there are still serious problems in its relations with Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia. These have to do with the fact that, while recognizing the established state borders, Hungary does not consider the conditions facing Hungarian minorities in these countries satisfactory, defends the rights to national and cultural development for all the fifteen million Hungarians distributed among six foreign countries, and tries to prevent the assimilation of its former compatriots.

Current Hungarian-Ukrainian relations are qualitatively different. Hungary recognized, without reservation, Ukraini-/170/an independence and was the first neighboring countries to sign an Agreement on the Fundamentals of Good-Neighbor Relations and Partnership on December 6, 1991, thus far the only important bilateral document between Hungary and a neighboring state. In it both parties recognized the mutual inviolability of their borders, pledged to provide each other mutual assistance in case of aggression against either by a third state, and to participate in the protection of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious rights and freedoms of ethnic minorities in accordance with international agreements. This sound Hungarian-Ukrainian partnership is due to the favorable conditions the Hungarian ethnic minority enjoys in Transcarpathia which, in the opinion of Hungarian spokesmen, are much better than those Hungarians face in Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia.

Politicians in popular-democratic Hungary consistently emphasize that "Ukraine's independence, as well as that of other new countries of Europe, should be safeguarded at all costs. Hungary will not profit by destabilization of the situation in any neighboring state or the restoration of the USSR which would again become our neighbor."13

Very indicative is Budapest's presumption that as the Ukrainian state becomes stronger, it will be a staunch ally of Hungary in defending the interests of the Hungarian ethnic minority and developing integrative processes in Europe. A strong and stable Ukraine, allied with Europe, would be in a position to exert greater influence in overcoming the injustices arising from the division of the Hungarian, nation: in this direction the partnership between Ukraine and Hungary has a bright future and is bound to grow stronger.

Hungary has of late made efforts to play, together with Ukraine, a mediator's role in the rapprochement between Germany and Russia as the major factors influencing the future of Europe. With the impulse toward integration dominant on the continent, Hungary and Ukraine are committed to jointly supporting the processes of European integration.

1 Magyar Orszàgos Levéltàr (MOL. K-28, 1926. L, 5272. 2,3, 6. old.

2 I. Fencsik, Kàrpàtoroszok multja éis jelen, (Pécs, 1939), 6, 12. old.

3 I. Egry, "Magyarorszag es Ukrania," A Cél, 1939, marcius, 73, 76. old.

4 L. Ruttkay, "Az ukràn mozgalom es a Ruténföld," Magyar Szemle, 1931, 4, 376. old.

5 Magyarorszàg és Lengyelorszàg. Bp. (Warszawa, 1936), 83. old.

6 M. Kozma, Beszédek, cikkek, elöadàsok, nyilatkozatok. 1940-1941. Bp., 1942, 145. old.; Turmezei L. Az ukràn kérdés magyar szempontjai. Bp., 1939, 8. old.; MOL K.-28, 1940, 225. t.-p-21800.

7 Uj Magyarsàg, 1939. marc. 17., 2. old.

8 M0L. K-28, 1940-E-15363, 22, 24. old.

9 M. Kozma, Uo. 145, 185, 195. old.

10 Hadtörtenelmi Intézet Levéltàra /HIL/. VKF. I. o., 1942. 5121/eln., 277. d., 46-47. old.; Uo. 5311/eln. /407/ 278. d., 52-55. old.

11 HIL. Rdplapgyuteminy, 1944, 1Y. 312. sz.

12 UPA Annals, Vol. I (Kyiv, 1995: in Ukrainian), p. 132.

13 Uj Magyarorszag, 1994, februar 18., 3. old.I.

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