Thursday, 6 December 2018

150 Years of Croatian-Hungarian Settlement Marked in Budapest

ZAGREB, December 6, 2018 - The Croatian-Hungarian Settlement was the beginning of the long creation of modern Croatian civil society, Croatian Institute of History head Jasna Turkalj said in Budapest on Wednesday at a conference on the 150th anniversary of the document. The document regulated the status of Croats in the last 50 years of Austria-Hungary, the beginning of the development of modern, though not independent Croatia.

Turkalj and seven Croatian and Hungarian historians spoke at the conference in the Hungarian parliament, held under the auspices of its Speaker Laszlo Kover and his Croatian counterpart Gordan Jandroković.

Jandroković said the Croatian-Hungarian state union had been one of the longest state unions in history. "We were together since 1102 as active political stakeholders in Europe, notably central Europe."

"It's also important to underline that we belong to the same European cultural and civilisation circle and we were, and still are, naturally inclined to cooperate closely," he said.

The Croatian-Hungarian Settlement was the foundation on which Ban Ivan Mažuranić implemented numerous reforms and although it did not give Croatia the fundamental features of a state, it ensured the features of special statehood such as territory, borders, legislation, management, tuition, worship, judiciary and internal affairs. "With that, Croatia acquired a status that no other Slavic nation had."

Both Jandroković and Kover underlined the importance of intensifying Croatian-Hungarian cooperation in the context of, said Jandroković, "an increasingly complex world full of challenges and a never more fragile European Union."

Opening the conference, Kover said that "we in central Europe want to defend ourselves from big powers passing through this region, which is why we should take care of ourselves together." "We should move away from the past and not look for protectors in big powers. There's no third way."

"Big tests are coming, dark clouds have gathered over Europe and migration is just one of the attacks on European culture and customs," Kover said, adding that central Europe could become Europe's centre, rather than be its periphery. "In these bad times you can't have a bad relationship with the neighbours. We must look for an answer to our disagreements and the legacy of the Croatian-Hungarian Settlement can help in that," he said.

Jandroković said this was his third meeting with Kover as parliament speaker and that he chose Hungary for his first official trip abroad to say that Croatia was interested in stronger relations.

"Today we see that Croatia and Hungary have good and friendly relations. There's this outstanding issue that we will resolve in the future, but it mustn't cast a shadow on the overall relations, which are important politically, economically and geostrategically," Jandroković said, referring to the issue of Croatia's INA oil company.

For more on the Croatian-Hungarian relations, click here.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Prague Spring Anniversary Marked by Czech Groups in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 29, 2018 - The Croatian-Czech Society and the Češka Beseda association on Wednesday held a round table discussion dedicated to the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalisation in Czechoslovakia as a Communist state after World War II. The year 1968 stirs up strong emotions among Czechs and Slovaks because it was a year of great hopes, enthusiasm and optimism, as well as a year of great disappointments, it was said at the event marking the Prague Spring anniversary.

The Prague Spring and its end, as well as the subsequent protest suicide of student Jan Palach, is probably the best known event in the history of the Czech and Slovak peoples in the world, said the president of the Croatian-Czech Society, Marijan Lipovac.

Around 50,000 Czechs and Slovaks were vacationing in Croatia at the time and could not return to their country as the borders were closed for about ten days.

The residents of Zagreb offered them to stay with them in their homes, said Češka Beseda vice-president Marina Kolaček Novosel, speaking of reports in Croatian newspapers at the time of the Prague Spring.

The Prague Spring was a reform movement led by Czechoslovak Communist leader Alexander Dubček and aimed at democratising and liberalising the country's social and political system, said Lipovac.

The hopes of reforms were destroyed in the occupation by five Warsaw Pact states – the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, in August 1968.

The Prague Spring was supported by Yugoslavia and Romania since Josip Broz Tito saw in it the success of his concept of socialism, while Nicolae Causescu, with his rigid regime, defended the principle that each state has the right to develop its own kind of socialism.

After the occupation, Dubček and the Czechoslovak leadership were forced to capitulate and give up their reforms, even though they were allowed to stay in their positions for some time.

The only of the planned reforms that was implemented was the federalisation of Czechoslovakia, which on 1 January 1969 became a federal state consisting of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic. A period of so-called normalisation ensued and lasted until the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

During the occupation, 137 Czechoslovaks who tried to put up resistance were killed. Political opponents were fired or arrested and around 250,000 people emigrated, including many researchers and cultural workers.

During that period, Croatian citizens and institutions provided their Czechoslovak guests with accommodation and the necessary assistance, once again confirming the solidarity between the Croats, Czechs and Slovaks in difficult times of their history, said Lipovac.

For more on relations between Croatia and the Czech Republic, click here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Parliament to Debate Historical Revisionism in Croatia on Thursday

ZAGREB, November 28, 2018 - Parliament will debate the SDP-sponsored interpellation on the work of the government on Thursday, in which the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) accuses the government of not confronting historical revisionism in Croatia.

SDP requests a parliamentary debate on that topic and asks the government to undertake actions that will prevent the use of symbols and salutes that are banned in Croatia by the Constitutions, laws and obvious court practice.

SDP proposes that parliament should adopt a conclusion defining the said salute as the official salute used by the Ustasha and WWII Independent State of Croatia (NDH) totalitarian regime.

The opposition party asks the government to remove the plaque for HOS volunteer fighters, which has the salute "For the Homeland Ready," incorporated in it. The plaque has been put up in Jasenovac, the site of a WWII death camp, among other things.

The plaque erected for eleven HOS Homeland War defenders with the salute was taken down in September 2017 in Jasenovac and relocated to the Trokut memorial site in the nearby town of Novska.

In September last year, the government said that it proposes to the parliament not to endorse the conclusions put forward by SDP. The government said then that the claims by the SDP that the government was downplaying Ustasha crimes were not correct.

The government wholly rejects the arguments in the SDP interpellation and one of the fundamental starting points of its programme for the 2016-20 period is the condemnation of all undemocratic systems which in the past century caused the persecution and execution of political opponents, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said then, adding that the government had clearly said that on many occasions.

For more on historical revisionism in Croatia and the events during the Second World War which are still often debated in Croatia, click here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

IDS Takes a Stand against Historical Revisionism in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 27, 2018 - Parliamentary deputies Giovanni Sponza and Tulio Demetlika of the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) called on Monday on Croatian authorities to state a clear position on Nazism and Fascism based on the model of developed and law-based countries, noting that the authorities' response to the historical revisionism in Croatia "must be resolute and uncompromising because otherwise room is being created for a revision of the nature of the NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia)."

"Last week Croatia was given a few stern lessons – two by the international community and one by its own human rights ombudswoman who in a courageous and comprehensive report underlined the responsibility of state institutions that are ignoring the glorification of Ustasha ideology in Croatia and failing to respond appropriately," Sponza told a news conference in the parliament.

"Representatives of state authorities did not utter a word about that report. That can be interpreted as currying favour with extremist groups," said Sponza.

In recent years, books have published, panel discussions organised, documentaries made and TV shows broadcast in which the NDH's criminal nature is negated or downplayed. "Except for the human rights ombudswoman, not a single state institution has responded to that. Those who do not condemn such phenomena are tacitly approving them," said Sponza.

He said the Austrian government had given another lesson to Croatia by amending a law to expand the list of banned symbols to include symbols of the Ustasha regime.

Sponza said the historical revisionism in Croatia was a serious social problem that required a decisive response by the state, including criminal sanctions. "The situation is getting out of hand by the day, and tolerance of Ustasha ideology is rising by the day at the expense of historical facts," Sponza said. He added that it was worrying that the latest surveys on political literacy in the final high school years showed that half of respondents were not sure if the NDH had been a fascist regime.

IDS member Tulio Demetlika said the government's response should be decisive and uncompromising because otherwise an atmosphere was being created that enabled the downplaying of horrible Ustasha crimes and creating room for a revision of the NDH's nature.

He said that Australia, too, had shown Croatia its position on the tolerance of Ustasha ideology by cancelling a visa to a man wearing Ustasha insignia. "In October 2017, the IDS forwarded to the parliament a bill proposing, on the model of developed European countries, a ban and proper sanctions against the promotion of the Nazi and Fascist regimes and consequently the Ustasha regime and all related symbols and slogans," Demetlika said, criticising Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) for not putting the bill on the parliament's agenda.

He said that he was confident this was so because the HDZ was trying to avoid a debate on that topic. "We want the bill to be put on the agenda immediately and we want Croatia to be like countries that have zero tolerance for Fascism," said Demetlika.

He said that if Jandroković did not put the IDS bill on the agenda soon, the IDS would seek support among MPs to collect more than 30 signatures to ensure that the item was put on the parliament's agenda within seven days.

Asked about disputes in the ruling coalition over the foster care bill, the IDS MPs said they welcomed the new bill that was designed to improve the quality of foster care and increase foster care allowance, but noted that they respected the principle of equality. "We believe that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, should enjoy the same status and possibility to exercise their rights," Sponza said.

Reporters also asked the IDS MPs to comment on Health Minister Milan Kujundžić's refusal to reveal the composition of the task force working on the abortion bill. "As regards legislative initiatives, including this one, there is a lack of professional discussion. Also, when professionals do make comments in a public discussion, which happens rarely, the government and the relevant ministries often ignore those comments, which is not good," said Sponza.

For more on the issue of historical revisionism in Croatia, click here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ombudsperson Warns against WWII Historical Revisionism

ZAGREB, November 21, 2018 - The Office of Ombudsman has warned in an analysis that attempts to downplay the crimes committed during the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH) led by the Ustasha regime undermine the fundamental values of the Constitution, while failure to respond to those attempts of WWII historical revisionism creates space for hatred.

"Denying the character of the NDH and the extent of the crimes committed by the Ustasha regime, posting (NDH) symbols in public space or using the syntagms showing sympathy for the regime have become so frequent in the Croatian society that they seem to be almost tacitly accepted," the ombudswoman Lora Vidović said in the analysis published on the website of the Office of Ombudsman.

Vidović calls for education and for fostering tolerance and culture of historical memory among school-age children and in this context mentions findings of a September 2015 survey conducted among senior students of secondary schools that showed that a half of respondents were not sure if the NDH was a pro-Fascist state.

Vidović recalls that European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommended in a report this year that "the (Croatian) authorities should introduce compulsory human rights education as part of civic education into all school curricula, especially as regards the right to equality and the prohibition of discrimination."

The ombudswoman calls on all stakeholders in the society to play an important role in permanent response to attempts to downplay the nature of the Ustasha state so as to make it impossible for such phenomena to participate in creating public opinions. She insists that it is full responsibility of the authorities to ensure the compliance with the Constitution and implementation of the laws so as to counter the phenomena "that symbolically or directly support or glorify the NDH and deny or downplay the crimes that regime had produced."

Vidović calls for putting an emphasis on the fact that the NDH was in contravention with the present-day Croatia.

In 2005, the Croatian Parliament adopted the declaration on anti-Fascism reaffirming Croatia's roots in and commitment to anti-Fascism and democracy and calling for nurturing anti-Fascist values, the Ombuswoman recalls.

She goes on to say that it is necessary to honour the requests of the representatives of the Roma, Serb and Jewish communities and anti-Fascist associations and create prerequisites for organising a single commemoration for victims of the Ustasha regime at the Jasenovac Memorial Centre, thus showing solidarity for the communities of the victims of those war atrocities.

Attempts to deny the crimes committed during the NDH regime and denying their extent are actually attempts to deny the past marked by hatred and violence against Roma, Serbs and Jews and opponents of the Ustasha regime, she says adding that attempts to deny crimes actually encourage hate speech that could lead to the violence against the members of the above-mentioned groups. In that way, the continuity of hatred is being fostered, which harms the values of equality, the rule of law and human rights on which the Croatian Constitution is based, Vidović writes in the conclusion of her analysis.

For more on the dark days of Croatia during the Second World War, click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Segestika-Siscia Archaeological Centre to Open in Sisak

The proposals for the development of the Segestika-Siscia Archaeological Centre have been presented in Sisak. There are four proposals which have been submitted as part of the public competition announced by the town authorities, and the expert jury decided that the best proposal is the one designed by Sara Jurinčić, Aleksandar Matijašević, Dino Mišković and Tatjana Barišić-Antolić, reports on November 17, 2018.

The town authorities announced the public competition for the purpose of obtaining the best possible urban planning and architectural solution for the Segestika-Siscia Archaeological Centre, which will serve as a basis for drafting the project documentation for the reconstruction of the centre building.

“Two years after we bought the building for two million kuna, we have reached the stage that the Ministry of Culture will fund the drafting of the project documentation. We have published a public competition which produced the best solution and it is nice to see that our vision will finally be realized.

171118 Archaeological centre 2

In this way, Sisak will get an archaeological heritage interpretation centre like no other in Europe, not only because it will be energy efficient but because it will bring together all the segments, from the research on the site from the presentation of the findings. Across the road from the centre is one of the most important archaeological sites in Croatia.

The archaeological treasures found in Sisak are currently not presented in an appropriate way and this will fix that. The town will get new jobs, experts who will come to our town and explore its archaeological heritage. I am particularly pleased that the winning proposal includes the chimney which will be turned into an observation viewing point. Together with the Ministry of Culture, we will nominate the project for EU funding,” said Sisak Mayor Kristina Ikić Baniček.

The main goal of the winning proposal is to bring the centre closer to the users, said team member Aleksandar Matijašević. “Our goal was not to create a closed building which does not communicate with the surroundings but to create several entry points. The visitors who will come to the centre will be able to see the entire building,” Matijašević said.

171118 Archaeological centre 3

The head of the Sisak Conservation Department, Ivana Miletić Čakširan, pointed out that archaeological findings in Sisak deserved such a project, which is unique in that the interpretation will take place on the archaeological site itself.

Parts of Sisak were built directly on the ruins of the Roman Siscia and the prehistoric Segestika, and the archaeological significance and potential are of such a scale and complexity that partial presentations are insufficient in terms of interpretation of the archaeological area.

By interpreting the Segestika-Siscia archaeological area in the industrial buildings of the Segestica factory complex, the project will interpret the remains of the Roman architecture in the archaeological park and create a multifunctional archaeological centre.

For more news on Sisak and the surrounding area, click here.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Exhibition on 16th Century Croatian Scientist Faust Vrančić to Open in Rome

ZAGREB, November 12, 2018 - An exhibition titled "Faust Vrančić in the Context of European Heritage" will be opened in Rome's Falconieri Palace on Tuesday, the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) said in a press release on Monday.

The exhibition has been organised by the Croatian Embassy to the Holy See in cooperation with the Hungarian Embassy in Rome, the National and University Library (NSK) in Zagreb, the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb, the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAZU) and the Croatian Ministry of Culture.

The purpose of the exhibition, which will be on display until 7 December, is to additionally promote this Croatian inventor and polymath this year which is dedicated to European cultural heritage.

Vrančić is regarded as one of the most important inventors and designers at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. He was born in Šibenik in 1551 and died in Venice in 1617. He was a polymath, linguist, diplomat, engineer and bishop.

At the end of the 16th century, he wrote a book with drawings of his own inventions and those of other inventors. There were two editions of the book and they differ mainly in the covers and the number of languages used to describe the inventions - "Machinae novae Fausti Verantii Siceni", presumably published in Florence in 1595, and "Machinae novae Fausti Verantii Siceni cum declaratione Latina Italica Hispanica Gallica et Germanica", believed to have been published in 1615 or 1616. The work contains 49 etchings with 56 different inventions.

Faust Vrančić's technical solutions cover river engineering, bridges, clocks, mills, presses, grain threshing machines, horse-drawn vehicles, and work organisation.

After the opening of the exhibition in Rome, a round table discussion will be held on Faust Vrančić and other 16th century polymaths and humanists from Dalmatia who were active in Croatia, Italy and Hungary.

For more on Croatian scientists, click here.

Monday, 12 November 2018

President Attends Paris Ceremony Marking Centenary of End of World War I

ZAGREB, November 12, 2018 - The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, which was held at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was not only a commemorative event but it also served as an opportunity to look at the future, Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in Paris on Sunday.

After the ceremony in Paris, the Croatian president told the press that the commemorative events were important not only to pay tribute to those who gave their lives but also to look at the future.

She said that during her stay in France, she was received by French President Emmanuel Macron, and held meetings with several other world leaders.

Grabar-Kitarović said that the Paris Peace Forum was opened by French President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who represented the countries which used to be on the opposite sides during the World War I and II, and that nowadays the two leaders were working together on the European Union project.

Threats facing the world such as terrorism, poverty, inequality, ignorance, climate change require our concerted action and no country can deal with it on its own, the Croatian president said.

After the central ceremony was held at Arc de Triomphe, President Grabar-Kitarović met with President Macron and other world leaders at Elysee Palace, and attended the plenary session of the Paris Peace Forum.

She told the press that she had done a lot of work on the margins of the commemorative events. In this context she mentioned her meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and informed the press that she reiterated her invitation to Putin to visit Croatia.

Grabar-Kitarović presented as a gift "Judita (Judith)", an epic poem of Croatian writer Marko Marulić, to the library of the Paris Peace Forum.

The central celebration of the centenary of the end of the Great War was held in the French capital to mark 100 years since the armistice reached on 11 November 1918. The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed in a railway carriage in a forest near Compiegne in northern France, marking the end of hostilities which began in 1914.

For more on the Croatian president, click here.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Croatia Marks 100 Years of End of WWI

ZAGREB, November 11, 2018 - In marking the centenary of the end of World War I, we remember one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of humankind which claimed the lives of ten million soldiers and eight million civilians and whose far-reaching and fatal consequences deeply defined the 20th century, leaving an indelible mark on the collective conscience of preset-day Europe, built on commitment to lasting peace and cooperation between once warring European nations, the government said on Sunday in a statement on the WWI end anniversary.

As a watershed event in modern European history, the armistice reached on 11 November 1918 marked the end of the Great War and terrible human suffering as well as paving the way to a number of peace agreements which changed the political order of the then world as well as the geopolitical picture of a large part of Europe, the government said.

The painful memories of the 20th century which brought Europe two and Croatia, unfortunately, three big wars should first and foremost serve as a lesson to the international community to be more responsible and more active in strengthening global security and peace as well as in preventing conflicts and wars between peoples, so that such human suffering never happens again, the government said.

As a member of the European Union and NATO which responsibly and equally participates in the resolution of numerous global issues and challenges, Croatia is committed to multilateralism and respect for international law, which is the foundation of lasting peace and stability in the world, the government said.

Joining an international initiative of countries which were hit the hardest by WWI, the government coordinated projects commemorating the centenary of its end, honouring all the victims from Croatia as well as all those killed here.

Over the past four years, scientific and cultural institutions, associations, libraries, museums, schools, towns and municipalities around Croatia participated in marking the centenary. Around Europe, Croatian embassies participated in events commemorating Croatian troops killed in countries hit by WWI. Croatian scientists also took part in seminars on WWI held abroad.

The marking of the end of World War I brought together in Zagreb on Sunday representatives of the winners and the losers, who said reconciliation between former enemies was possible and warned that millions of victims were a reminder that peace and freedom should never be taken for granted.

Diplomats from Great Britain, France, Canada and Germany attended mass at Zagreb Cathedral.

The German ambassador's charge d'affaires, Herald Seibel, said they came to the cathedral to pray for peace and that the end of WWI was a day which acted both as a reminder and a warning. "We wish to show the world that not only peace, but reconciliation too, is possible. That's why we are here with our former enemies and today friends," he told Hina.

Remembering the millions of casualties, French Ambassador Corrine Meunier said working on peace was a "constant job." "There are many places in the world where people must start to work on true reconciliation, just as Germany and France did. Today we are together with the British, Canadian and French ambassadors to show that nothing is impossible when it comes to peace and reconciliation."

British Ambassador Andrew Dalgliesh said one must never forget how horrible war was. War is the last means, when all other steps fail. After all, that's why we have professional armies. But the message of WWI is: Don't forget how much you will pay for that and how many people will be killed, he added.

Canadian Ambassador Daniel Maksymiuk said those killed in WWI were a reminder that peace and freedom should never be taken for granted. We must be grateful that today we are friends and allies. We are here to say: Never again to the tragedy and disaster we saw 100 years ago, he added.

A series of events commemorating the end of WWI ends in Paris today, with 80 heads of state and government attending, including Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron. In the afternoon they will take part in the Paris Peace Forum.

Mass was also attended by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and representatives of parliament and the president's office.

Cathedral rector Josip Kuhtić said in his sermon that peace-building unconditionally required the firm will to respect other people and nations and their dignity. He said all victims deserved respect, without selective approaches, and asked those attending to pray for all those killed in WWI and all wars around the world.

After the service, Prime Minister Plenković told reporters they came to pay their respects to all the victims and to once again remember what was most important - peace, solidarity and international cooperation as the backbone of the international order and stable relations in the world. "Today marks 100 years of the November 11 when an armistice was signed in Compiegne, marking the end of WWI, the Great War, which claimed more than 18 million victims," he said and added "that end and the peace agreements that followed completely changed the map of this part of Europe, but also defined the world's future."

For more on Croatian history, click here.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Kristallnacht Anniversary Commemorated in Zagreb

ZAGREB, November 10, 2018 - The Croatian Antifascist League and the Jewish Community of Zagreb observed on Friday the 80th anniversary of the pogrom against German Jews, known as Kristallnacht, calling for not equating Ustashism and anti-fascism and warning about xenophobia and nationalism.

On the night between 9 and 10 November 1938, the Nazis organised a pogrom against Jews throughout Germany and Austria. Hundreds of Jews were killed, 30,000 were arrested and sent to death camps, 177 synagogues were burnt, Jewish cemeteries were desecrated and more than 7,000 Jewish-owned shops were destroyed.

That was the beginning of the darkest period in human history, the Holocaust, said Ognjen Kraus, president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia. He called for putting an end to the making up of a new history of Croatia and WWII.

"In Germany, Austria and every West European country, it's not possible to downplay or negate the existence of the concentration death camps, to equate the victims of Nazism and anti-fascism, the Axis Powers and the Allied Powers. One must not downplay what Nazi Germany was, the victims of Nazism, what happened in the death camps. In Croatia, that's possible," said Kraus.

He called for not equating the antifascist and Ustasha movements, "the throat-cutters and the victims," and warned about the danger nationalism and xenophobia. He asked the interior and justice ministers, the chief state prosecutor, the prime minister, the parliament speaker and the president if they had read the constitution and if they were familiar with the penal code. "How much longer will you sell the honour of this country which, after the Ustasha movement, did itself proud with the antifascist movement?"

"We observe the Kristallnacht anniversary not just because it's a significant historic event but also because it's a significant warning on the path of every society. In Croatia, it's a warning about where systematically incited intolerance can lead to," said Zoran Pusić, president of the Croatian Antifascist League. "No matter how shallow the lies on which that intolerance is built, little by little they shape public opinion," he added.

The speakers noted that Croatian director Jakov Sedlar's film "100 years of Serbian terror in Croatia" premiered tonight, with Pusić saying that similar films, aimed at fomenting intolerance towards one minority, used to come out of Goebbels's Nazi propaganda ministry too, and Kraus adding, "That's how Kristallnacht happened."

They said it was a disgrace that no senior state official had attended the commemoration.

Israeli director Nitza Gonen's documentary "The Forgotten Ones", about the Holocaust against Jews in the former Yugoslavia, was shown as part of the commemoration.

For more news on Jews in Croatia, click here.

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