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Monday, 24 June 2013
Russian Church in America Marks 400th Anniversary of Romanov Dynasty
Topic: 400th Anniversary

On June 18th, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)  marked the 400th anniversary since the accession of the Romanov dynasty to the Russian throne. The main events of the celebration were held in the Cathedral of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign in New York City including a remembrance vespers service for the late czars and emperors of Russia.

The solemn service was conducted by ROCOR’s Supreme Hierarch, Metropolitan Hillarion, and the Administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate’s parishes in the U.S., Archbishop Justin of Naro-Fominsk. The congregation included activists of the organizations of Russian fellow-countrymen, representatives of the U.S. public quarters, the successors of Russian noble families who emigrated to the U.S. after the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917, and diplomats of the Russian Federation.

After the service, a gala party organized by ROCOR and Russia’s Consulate General in New York was held in the cathedral. An exhibition featuring Russia during the Romanovs’ rule /from 1613 through to 1917/ that was organized by the Federal Service for Relations with Compatriots Abroad /Rossotrudnichestvo/ was opened in its halls.

It is really impossible to overestimate the role that the Romanov dynasty played in the fostering and disseminating of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity that made up the backbone of Russian statehood, Metropolitan Hillarion told ITAR-TASS in an exclusive interview.

One feels particularly glad today upon seeing the rebirth of olden Orthodox tradition in today’s Russia and the way that the rank-and-file citizens and the country’s leadership hold the history of their great homeland in esteem, he said, adding that a testimony to this is found in the all-Russia span of celebrations devoted to the 400th anniversary of the Romanovs dynasty.

© Russkiy Mir and ITAR-TASS. 24 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:59 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 24 June 2013 5:11 AM EDT
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Record-Smashing Artist Celebrates Romanovs
Topic: 400th Anniversary

Shpanin staning in front of one of his paintings in which two conflicting historic scenes are connected by shape

Stass Shpanin's paintings can be found in the private collections of major world leaders, including the President of Azerbaijan and former U.S. President George W. Bush. His works have been exhibited worldwide on numerous occasions.

This Wednesday, he will give a talk at the Moscow International Festival of Art in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, at which he will present "The Royal Family Through the Eyes of an American Artist."

This year, more than 300 artists from over 20 countries, including the former Soviet Union, Europe, India, China, and North America, will participate.

Shpanin will be discussing the paradoxes of pre-revolutionary Russia at the tail end of the Romanovs' reign and presenting a painting based on their final days.

The Romanov treasure trove of diamonds and jewels that helped to formally identify the last ruling family of the dynasty after their murder in Yekaterinburg in 1918 inspired Shpanin to produce a new painting entitled 'Diamond' for the occasion.

"Looking at the history of the 19th and 20th centuries is particularly interesting now. Only 20 years ago, it was kept under lock and key,"  he stated, acknowledging the severity with which Imperial Russia was treated under Soviet rule.

The notoriety of his recent works and passage of his early artistic development is all quite striking when you realize that Stass Shpanin is only 23 years old.

Born in Baku to a family of Russian and Azerbaijani descent, Shpanin began training as an artist at the tender age of four. At seven he had his first solo show, and at 12, the Guinness Book of World Records named him the Youngest Professional Artist in the World.

The following year his family moved to the United States, where Shpanin continued to paint and exhibit widely.

The intensity of attention he garnered at such a young age could have been a recipe for hubris, but the unassuming young artist seems in no danger of resting on his childhood laurels. "It's the history," he said, "it's past, you have to do something present."

While not belabored by his own personal history, Shpanin remains deeply preoccupied with the nature of historical memory, which will receive a heavy focus in his presentation.

History as experienced in Shpanin's works is a delicate, mutable, and highly personal process. "I definitely believe that history is being written right now by people living today, even the history of the past," he said.

In one of his earlier series, history is staged as layers of apparently unrelated images united solely by geometric elements in the composition. "We want to see history as one image, and I'm showing that it's not one image … This is the battle, the historical battle, that happens on canvas," Shpanin said.

As a student at Hartford Art School he began mining the rich visuals of 19th and early 20th century Russian history in his work.

Last year, he was awarded a Fulbright grant, which brought him to Moscow to develop his projects under the tutelage of esteemed artist and Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Arts, Tahir Salahov.

While they are meant to provoke and intrigue, Shpanin insists that his paintings are not intended to be beautiful. "Painting ideas and painting some images that might be uncomfortable for a viewer is more important than pleasing the audience," he said.

Although the fall of representational painting and rise of conceptual art have left many traditional painters dissatisfied with the modern art world, Shpanin is happy to embrace it as is.

"I definitely believe in conceptual art and I definitely believe in postmodernism," he said, describing upcoming plans for forays into video and installation art.

These typically American attitudes stand in strong contrast to the approach Shpanin has witnessed in Russian arts education. "(In Russia), in many cases, art is about process, art is about painting nice images," he said. This disconnection between Russia and the international art scene is among the factors that can prevent Russian artists from attaining a major international presence.

Despite some shining counter-examples, such as Ilya Kabakov or Alexander Kosolapov, according to Shpanin there is "a small percent, unfortunately, of artists who are very knowledgeable of what's going on in the art world outside of Russia."

Among the institutions working to bridge this divide is the major festival hosting Shpanin's presentation, the colossal Moscow International Festival of Art, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday this week.

The massive exhibition involves competitions spanning eight different media formats and the display of projects in a number of Moscow galleries, including among its aspirations "the development of cultural dialogue between countries and the strengthening of friendship between nations," according to organizers.

Ideally, relationships formed during the festival will give rise to further collaborations, strengthening cross-cultural dialogue and the presence of Russian artists abroad.

"Russian art is presented in great quantities in other countries just after this type of festival, because all the participants meet each other, new cultural relationships are established, and new projects are planned in various galleries and museums and then brought to fruition," said organizers.

Stass Shpanin's presentation, "The 400-Year Anniversary of the House of the Romanovs: Imperial Russia Through the Eyes of an American Artist," (in Russian with simultaneous translation) will take place on  June 27 at 6 p.m. at the Central House of Artists , 10 Krymsky Vall, Metro Oktyabrskaya.

© The Moscow Times. 24 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:21 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 24 June 2013 4:37 AM EDT
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Sunday, 23 June 2013
Serving Magnificence: Suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Serving Magnificence: Suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court, an exhibition project comprising the period from the reigns of Tsars Alexander II, Alexander II and Nicholas II, the time in the history of Russia known as the formation of Russian industry, starts on June 19th, 2013.

Our exhibition dedicated to the Russian and foreign official purveyors to the Imperial Court of Russia in the 1800s - early 1900s runs through September 30, 2013, on the Second Floor of the Zubiv Wing at the Catherine Palace from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except Mondays.

Our exhibition project comprises the period from the reigns of Tsars Alexander II, Alexander II and Nicholas II, the time in the history of Russia known as the formation of Russian industry.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Russia held several events that were remembered by the people and described in books and memoirs. The chain of celebrations comprised the coronation of Nicholas II in 1896, the founding anniversaries of St. Petersburg and its suburban imperial residences in 1903–1910, the centenary of the Russo-Napoleonic War in 1912, and the Romanov 300th Anniversary in 1913. 

All related formal receptions, balls and dinners were catered by a huge number of businesses involved in food and beverages, flowers and exotic plants, tableware and linens, clothing and footwear, musical instruments, coaches and cars, jewelry, perfumes and hairdressing. Their efforts in providing for the Tsar’s family and retinue contributed substantially to the reputation of the Imperial Court of Russia as one of the most opulent in Europe.

Suppliers to the Imperial Court were regarded as the elite of Russian traders and manufacturers. Their names — from the famous luxury makers Fabergé, Bolin, Ovchinnikov and Khlebnikov to bakers and confectioners like Filippov, Abrikosov, Borman and Einem, whose products were popular among all society levels — were familiar to everyone.

One of the first Court Suppliers, marking his status with the Russian coat of arms on his products and signboards from 1818, was Abraham Friedrich Krohn, a famed brewer. The state heraldry placement rules, established by 1856, gave the right to approved manufacturers, artists, craftsmen and Imperial Court Suppliers to put the coat of arms on their signboards. Suppliers to Grand-Ducal Courts had to apply for the Emperor’s permission to use the coat of arms together with customer monograms.

The official title of Imperial Court Supplier was an honour available to applicants after 10 years of a steady supply of (preferably their own) products, with reasonable prices and no complaints. The non-descendible title was limited to supply period and could be awarded to qualifiers only twice a year, on Christmas and Easter.

Since 1901, the mark of Court Supplier was the Russian minor coat of arms, with a ribbon below showing the supplier’s status (Imperial or Grand-Ducal) and conferment year. After Russia entered the First World War, the assignment rules changed for the last time in 1914–1915 when the subjects of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey were denied eligibility.

The majority of suppliers to the Imperial Court were not luxury makers but those providing food, beverages, clothes, footwear, accessories, cosmetics and medicines. Icon-painters and suppliers of ecclesiastical objects were small in number but very significant, especially under the last Romanovs. Along with technical progress in the early 1900s, there appeared suppliers of motor vehicles and other equipment (elevators, electrics, heating and water systems, etc.), some were later renamed and are continuing to the present.

Today, over a hundred years after the flourishing of their makers, the products supplied to the Imperial and Grand-Ducal Courts are seen in a different light and even can be more informative than many other historical sources on Tsarist Russia.



© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 23 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:50 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 December 2013 8:19 AM EST
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Tsarskoye Selo Receives Vases of Nicholas I's Wife
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Mr. Mikhail Karisalov, an art patron and collector whose generous donations and marvellous exhibition of last year became a success at Tsarskoye Selo, has donated to the museum three Chinese-styled vases which were depicted in a watercolour of 1861 by Eduard Hau.

The bronze base vases with covers and floral cobalt painting came from the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory in the 1840s and graced the Alexander Palace's Bedroom of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the spouse of Tsar Nicholas I, matching the wall-lining perfectly (see below).

The set of vases should complement the display at the Alexander Palace.

The bedroom of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace. Artist: Eduard Hau (1861)

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 23 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:35 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 June 2013 11:49 AM EDT
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Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna
Topic: Books

On June 6th, 2013, the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoye Selo saw the presentation of a book about Empress Alexandra, the wife of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II.

The book was written by Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, a lady-in-waiting to the Tsarina, and titled Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna, the Empress of Russia. The book is published unabridged in Russia  for the first time, though it first saw life in 1928 and, like the author's other two memoirs about the imperial family, is considered one of the best accounts of the Romanov family's life and final days.

It was presented together with a book of comments written by Tatiana Monakova, Kirill Protopopov and Andrei Manovtsev, who had been working on this publication for almost a decade.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 23 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:30 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 June 2013 11:44 AM EDT
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Lilac Day at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

The exhibit was on display in the Mountain Hall which is under restoration. Photo Credit: Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve

On 6th June 2013, Tsarskoye Selo had the Lilac Day, an event organized together with the National Association for the Revival of Historic Gardens and Parks and the International Lilac Society.

The event commemorated the birth date of Empress Alexanda, the wife of Tsar Nicholas II. Alexandra loved all tints if the colour mauve, that is why the Lilac (Mauve) Study became her favourite room in the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoye Selo. In spring and on the Tsarina's birthday it would be filled up with the scents of her favourite lilacs and lilies-of-the-valley. Her other rooms were decorated with flowers all year round too. The Maple and Palisander Drawing-Rooms had gorgeous bouquets of lilacs from either the Tsarskoye Selo Greenhouse or the Crimean Livadia.

Dressed to the 'lilac code', the participants and invitees listened to a brilliant 'lilac lecture' and saw Alexandra's authentic dress, which was put on display in the Alexander Palace for the first time, courtesy of the Pavlovsk Museum. They also visited Alexandra's Lilac Study blooming with fragrant and lovely lilac blossoms and planted lilac seedlings, provided by the Piccoplant nursery, near the White Tower in the Alexander Park.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 23 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:11 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 June 2013 11:30 AM EDT
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Journey to St. Petersburg, a Short Summary of My Visit
Topic: Royal Russia

I have just returned from a 10-day journey St. Petersburg in Russia, where I also received a VIP welcome by the palace administration and staff at Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof and Pavlovsk.

This was my annual research visit which allows me the opportunity to get the latest updates on the restoration of palaces, exhibitions, new Romanov books, plus meetings with museum staff, local historians and others to gain and share knowledge on the Romanov dynasty and their legacy. 

The highlights of my 2013 visit to St. Petersburg include; 

The Alexander Palace.  The most exciting part of my visit to Tsarskoye Selo included an oppportunity to tour three new rooms currently under restoration. These include the Mountain Hall, the Large Library, and the Small Library.

The collection of colour autochromes of the Alexander Palace interiors taken shortly after Tsar Nicholas II and his family were sent into exile in 1917 ae currently on display in the Large Library. This rare and unique exhibit, however, is only temporary pending the upcoming restoration of the room.

I can also confirm that restoration work is under way in the west wing of the palace. I took a number of photographs of the new rooms (Mountain Hall and Large Library) under restoration, the colour autochromes and the work being carried out on the west wing of the palace.

I also returned to the Children’s Island at Tsarskoye Selo which will be the topic of My Russia featured in Royal Russia Annual No. 4 (due August 2013). It will include photographs which I took during this visit, and previous visits in which I actually walked on the island on two separate occasions. My article will also include new information from Russian sources on the history of the Children’s Island and plans for its restoration.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral. The restoration of the magnificent wooden gilded Baroque iconostasis is now complete. Designed by Ivan Zarudny and carved by Moscow craftsmen in the 1720s, the iconostasis contains 43 original icons of the eighteenth century, it is absolutely beautiful. The Grand Ducal Burial Vault is still closed due to restoration and is scheduled to open next month.

Mikhailovsky (Engineers) Castle. The former Imperial residence of Emperor Paul I is currently hosting an exhibition dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The exhibit offers a stunning collection of portraits, busts, and miniatures of members of the Russian Imperial family. Three busts by M. Antokolsky are included of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. I was also pleased to see a selection of the original watercolours of the coronation of Emperor Alexander III, painted in 1883 by a variety of artists.

Pavlovsk. It has been several years since I was last at this beautiful palace. I spent an entire day here and saw a number of newly restored rooms, including the Rossi Library, Empress Maria Feodorovna’s private apartments and the Costume Museum which is housed on the ground floor of the north wing of the palace.

The Costume Museum offered two unique exhibits, including the fabulous Naryshkin Treasure. Pavlovsk currently have some 299 pieces on display from the collection found in the former Naryshkin Mansion at No. 29 Ulitsa Tchaikovsky at St. Petersburg in March, 2012. Beautifully presented in two rooms of the museum the gold and silver items on display include cutlery, tea pots, sugar bowls, serving dishes and platters, many bearing the Naryshkin coat-of-arms.

The second part of the exhibit which consists of four rooms is devoted to a collection of dresses and personal items of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and her daughter-in-law, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

Large glass display cases showcase a total of 13 dresses and evening gowns, including 7 of the Dowager Empress and 6 of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.  Other display cases allow visitors to open drawers which are filled with a large collection of colourful and decorative fans, purses and lace. Also on display is a large pink silk handkerchief holder, embroidered with Empress Alexandra’s monogram on the front.

Probably the most interesting pieces on temporary display are two kokoshniks that were presented and worn by the Grand Duchesses Tatiana and Anastasia Nicholayevna in 1913.

Scattered throughout the costume exhibit are a selection of portraits of members of the Russian Imperial family, including two beautiful portraits of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, both of which are new to me. Two busts of Grand Duchess Alexandra Youssifova by Alexandre Munro and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by Pietro Canonica are also on display.

Aside from these highlights I also visited many other places of interest: The State Hermitage Museum, Russian State Museum, Academy of Fine Arts, Summer Gardens of Peter the Great, Church on the Spilled Blood, Holy Trinity Alexander Nevsky Lavra (including St. Nicholas Cemetery and Lavra Necropolis), Transfiguration Cathedral and the newly restored Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (one of the most beautiful churches in the entire city).

I spent three full days at Tsarskoye Selo (Catherine and Alexander Palaces, Feodorovsky Cathedral and Feodorovsky Gorodok); Peterhof (Grand Palace, Imperial Yacht Museum, Catherine Block, Bath Block and the Peter and Paul Cathedral); and Pavlovsk (Palace, Costume Museum and park).

During my stay, I did a tremendous amount of research, and complied over 50 large sheets of notes, and took more than 400 photographs, some of which are shown above. I look forward to sharing them with Royal Russia subscribers on my web site and blog, as well as the pages of Royal Russia Annual* in the coming weeks and months ahead.

I also met with the company in Russia who supply my online shop with a steady stream of photo albums, biographies and palace guidebooks. I brought back samples of more than a dozen new books on the Romanovs and their palaces, several of which I have placed large orders for and will offer in my online shop upon receipt from my supplier in St. Petersburg in the coming months.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:57 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 23 June 2013 8:14 AM EDT
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Sunday, 9 June 2013
Royal Russia Office & Shop CLOSED!
Topic: Royal Russia

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 09 June, 2013

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:30 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 8 June 2013 3:57 PM EDT
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Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 15
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

The Church of the Saviour Not Made by Human Hand was named after a legendary Byzantine icon, a copy of which was brought to St. Petersburg by order of Empress Anna Ioannovna. This large neo-classical church on Konyushennaya Ploshchad - "Stable Square" - is an integral part of the architectural ensemble that once made up the Imperial Stables. The first wooden church was built on this site in 1737, while the current building was designed by Vasiliy Stasov and erected in 1817-1823. Significantly expanded and altered forty years later by the serf architect Pyotr Sadovnikov, the church retained its neo-classical grandeur, with soaring Doric columns and deep porticos beneath bas-reliefs depicting Christ's entry into Jerusalem and the bearing of the cross.

In the last years of his life, the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was a regular visitor to the church from his nearby apartments on the Moika Embankment. After his fatal duel with Georges Dantes, his body was carried from this church to his final resting place at the Svyatagorsky Monastery, and to this day the bells are rung to mark his birthday and the day of his death.


During the Soviet years, the church became Police Precinct No. 28, with toilets installed on the site of the alter. The building was returned to the Orthodox Church in 1991, and has since been fully restored.

Although the building's facade is in chronic need of restoration, the interior of the church is richly decorated with marble and gilt, and worth a quick inspection. The church is fully functioning, with ceremonies to mark all Orthodox holidays, as well as the anniversary of the Icon of the Saviour Not Made by Human Hand (August 29), a copy of which takes pride of place in the church's iconostasis. The church is also regularly used for concerts by pupils of the church's Sunday school.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 09 June, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 8 June 2013 3:57 PM EDT
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Saturday, 8 June 2013
Restoration of the Winter Palace Church
Topic: Winter Palace

Next year marks the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum, an occasion which will be marked by some very exciting exhibitions and events. Among them is the long-awaited restoration of the former Grand Church of the Winter Palace.

The restoration of the church will also include a reconstruction of the three-tier iconostasis (the original iconstasis was destroyed by the Soviets in 1938) at the cost of 128.8 million Rubles (more than 4 million USD).  Specialists will reconstruct the framework of the iconostasis, manufacture the lost ornamental gilded stucco carvings, restore icons which survived, and reproduce those destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The State Hermitage will also pay 70 million Rubles for repairs to the church dome and the cross.

The Grand Church of the Winter Palace was originally built by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771)  in the Baroque style in 1763. It was considered "one of the most splendid rooms" in the palace. After a devastating fire in 1837, the church was rebuilt by Vasily Stasov (1769-1848) who recreated its original look.

The space of the church is divided into three architectural volumes; two of them - the one closest to the entrance and the altar portion - are provided with double rows of windows. The central volume is crowned with a dome and accentuated by pylons with double fluted Corinthian columns. The walls are decorated with the Corinthian pilasters alternating with the arched windows that give light to the church on two sides. The lower row of the windows is separated from the upper one with the highly projected and fractured cornice. The gilded stucco ornament made of papier-mache is the principal artistic decoration of the church along with the ceiling painting The Ascension of Christ by Pyotr Basin and the images of the four evangelists by Fiodor Bruni on the vault sides under the dome. The crimson draperies and gilded chandeliers complete the impressive décor of the interior.

The new church was consecrated by Metropolitan Filaret on May 25th, 1839 in the presence of the Imperial family. At the end of the 19th century a belfry was added with five bells.

The wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt took place in the church on 26 November [O.S. 14 November], 1895. Artist: Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927) 

The Cathedral was the repository of multiple relics and memorabilia related to the Romanovs. It was used as the imperial family's private place of worship, with the imperial family's members usually praying in a special room beyond the sanctuary. This was the place where Nicholas II prayed at the liturgy before exiting onto the balcony to face the crowd on the day of declaring war on Germany in 1914. In May 1918, the church was officially closed for worship.

For decades the church has served as an unconsecrated exhibition hall of the State Hermitage Museum. The newly restored church will be part of a new permanent exhibit dedicated to Russian religious art. The newly restored Grand Church of the Winter Palace is scheduled to open in 2014.

Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 08 June, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:39 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 8 June 2013 2:25 PM EDT
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