Italian invasion of Albania

Last updated
Italian invasion of Albania
Part of Interwar period
Italian army 2.PNG
Italian forces in Albania.
DateApril 7–12, 1939
Location
Result Italian victory, King Zog leaves Albania
Territorial
changes
Albania becomes an Italian protectorate
Belligerents
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Kingdom of Italy Flag of Albania (1934-1939).svg Kingdom of Albania
Commanders and leaders
Benito Mussolini
Alfredo Guzzoni
Giovanni Messe
Zog I
Abaz Kupi
Xhemal Aranitasi
Mujo Ulqinaku  
Strength
22,000 soldiers
400 aircraft [1]
2 battleships
3 heavy cruisers
3 light cruisers
9 destroyers
14 torpedo boats
1 minelayer
10 auxiliary ships
9 transport ships
8,000 soldiers [2]
5 aircraft
Casualties and losses
25 dead
97 wounded [3]
160 dead and several hundreds wounded [3]
Events leading to World War II
  1. Treaty of Versailles 1919
  2. Polish-Soviet War 1919
  3. Treaty of Trianon 1920
  4. Treaty of Rapallo 1920
  5. Franco-Polish alliance 1921
  6. March on Rome 1922
  7. Corfu incident 1923
  8. Occupation of the Ruhr 19231925
  9. Mein Kampf 1925
  10. Pacification of Libya 19231932
  11. Dawes Plan 1924
  12. Locarno Treaties 1925
  13. Young Plan 1929
  14. Great Depression 19291941
  15. Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931
  16. Pacification of Manchukuo 19311942
  17. January 28 Incident 1932
  18. World Disarmament Conference 19321934
  19. Defense of the Great Wall 1933
  20. Battle of Rehe 1933
  21. Nazis' rise to power in Germany 1933
  22. Tanggu Truce 1933
  23. Italo-Soviet Pact 1933
  24. Inner Mongolian Campaign 1933–1936
  25. German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact 1934
  26. Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  27. Soviet–Czechoslovakia Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  28. He–Umezu Agreement 1935
  29. Anglo-German Naval Agreement 1935
  30. December 9th Movement
  31. Second Italo-Ethiopian War 19351936
  32. Remilitarization of the Rhineland 1936
  33. Spanish Civil War 19361939
  34. Anti-Comintern Pact 1936
  35. Suiyuan Campaign 1936
  36. Xi'an Incident 1936
  37. Second Sino-Japanese War 19371945
  38. USS Panay incident 1937
  39. Anschluss Mar. 1938
  40. May crisis May 1938
  41. Battle of Lake Khasan JulyAug. 1938
  42. Bled Agreement Aug. 1938
  43. Undeclared German-Czechoslovak War Sep. 1938
  44. Munich Agreement Sep. 1938
  45. First Vienna Award Nov. 1938
  46. German occupation of Czechoslovakia Mar. 1939
  47. Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine Mar. 1939
  48. German ultimatum to Lithuania Mar. 1939
  49. Slovak–Hungarian War Mar. 1939
  50. Final offensive of the Spanish Civil War Mar.Apr. 1939
  51. Danzig Crisis Mar.Aug. 1939
  52. British guarantee to Poland Mar. 1939
  53. Italian invasion of Albania Apr. 1939
  54. Soviet–British–French Moscow negotiations Apr.Aug. 1939
  55. Pact of Steel May 1939
  56. Battles of Khalkhin Gol MaySep. 1939
  57. Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Aug. 1939
  58. Invasion of Poland Sep. 1939

The Italian invasion of Albania (April 7–12, 1939) was a brief military campaign by the Kingdom of Italy against the Kingdom of Albania. The conflict was a result of the imperialist policies of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Albania was rapidly overrun, its ruler, King Zog I, forced into exile, and the country made part of the Italian Empire as a protectorate in personal union with the Italian crown.

Contents

Background

Albania had long been of considerable strategic importance to the Kingdom of Italy. Italian naval strategists coveted the port of Vlorë and the island of Sazan at the entrance to the Bay of Vlorë, as they would give Italy control of the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, and suitable base for military operations in the Balkans. [4] In the late Ottoman period, with a de-emphasis of Islam, the Albanian nationalist movement gained the strong support of two Adriatic sea powers Austria-Hungary and Italy who were concerned about pan-Slavism in the wider Balkans and Anglo-French hegemony purportedly represented through Greece in the area. [5] Before World War I Italy and Austria-Hungary had been supportive to the creation of an independent Albanian state. [6] At the outbreak of the war, Italy had seized the chance to occupy the southern half of Albania, to avoid it being captured by the Austro-Hungarians. That success did not last long, as Albanian resistance during the subsequent Vlora War and post-war domestic problems forced Italy to pull out in 1920. [7] The desire to compensate for this failure would be one of Mussolini's major motives in invading Albania. [8]

Albania was important culturally and historically to the nationalist aims of the Italian Fascists,[ citation needed ] as the territory of Albania had long been part of the Roman Empire, even prior to the annexation of northern Italy by the Romans. Later, during the High Middle Ages, some coastal areas (like Durazzo) had been influenced and owned by Italian powers, chiefly the Kingdom of Naples and the Republic of Venice for many years (cf. Albania Veneta). The Italian Fascist regime legitimized its claim to Albania through studies proclaiming the racial affinity of Albanians and Italians, especially as opposed to the Slavic Yugoslavs. [9] Italian Fascists claimed that Albanians were linked through ethnic heritage to Italians due to links between the prehistoric Italiotes, Roman and Illyrian populations, and that the major influence exhibited by the Roman and Venetian empires over Albania justified Italy's right to possess it.[ citation needed ]

When Mussolini took power in Italy he turned with renewed interest to Albania. Italy began penetration of Albania's economy in 1925, when Albania agreed to allow Italy to exploit its mineral resources. [10] That was followed by the First Treaty of Tirana in 1926 and the Second Treaty of Tirana in 1927, whereby Italy and Albania entered into a defensive alliance. [10] Among other things the Albanian government and economy were subsidised by Italian loans and the Royal Albanian Army was not only trained by Italian military instructors, but most officers in the army were Italians; other Italians were highly placed in the Albanian government. A third of Albanian imports came from Italy. [11]

Despite strong Italian influence, King Zog I refused to give in completely to Italian pressure. [12] In 1931 he stood up openly to the Italians, refusing to renew the 1926 Treaty of Tirana. After Albania signed trade agreements with Yugoslavia and Greece in 1934, Mussolini made a failed attempt to intimidate the Albanians by sending a fleet of warships to Albania.[ dubious ] [13]

As Nazi Germany annexed Austria and moved against Czechoslovakia, Italy saw itself becoming the lesser member of the Pact of Steel.[ dubious ] [14] The imminent birth of an Albanian royal child meanwhile threatened to give Zog a lasting dynasty. After Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia (March 15, 1939) without notifying Mussolini in advance, the Italian dictator decided to proceed with his own annexation of Albania.[ citation needed ] Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III criticized the plan to take Albania as a great unnecessary risk for an almost negligible gain. [15] Rome, however, delivered Tirana an ultimatum on March 25, 1939, demanding that it consent to Italy's occupation of Albania. [16] Zog refused to accept money in exchange for allowing a full Italian takeover and colonization of Albania.[ citation needed ]

The Albanian government tried to keep secret the news of the Italian ultimatum.[ citation needed ] While Radio Tirana persistently broadcast that nothing was happening, people became suspicious; and the news of the Italian ultimatum was spread from unofficial sources. On April 5 the king's son was born and the news was announced by cannons. People poured out into the streets alarmed, but the news of the newborn prince calmed them. People were suspicious that something else was going on, which led to an anti-Italian demonstration in Tirana the same day. On 6 April there were several demonstrations in Albania's main cities. That same afternoon, 100 Italian aircraft flew over Tirana, Durrës, and Vlorë, dropping leaflets instructing the people to submit to Italian occupation. The people were infuriated by this demonstration of force and called for the government to resist and to release the Albanians arrested as "communists". The crowd shouted, "Give us arms! We are being sold out! We are being betrayed!".[ citation needed ] While a mobilization of the reserves was called, many high-ranking officers left the country.[ citation needed ] The government began to dissolve. The Minister of the Interior, Musa Juka, left the country for Yugoslavia the same day. While King Zog announced to the nation that he would resist Italian occupation, people felt that they were being abandoned by their government. [17]

Invasion

Italian troops and L3/35 tanks in Durres. Italian troops in Durres.jpg
Italian troops and L3/35 tanks in Durrës.

The original Italian plans for the invasion called for up to 50,000 men supported by 51 naval units and 400 airplanes. Ultimately the invasion force grew to 100,000 men supported by 600 airplanes, [18] but only 22,000 took part in the invasion. [2] On April 7 Mussolini's troops, led by General Alfredo Guzzoni, invaded Albania, attacking all Albanian ports simultaneously. The Italian naval forces involved in the invasion consisted of the battleships Giulio Cesare and Conte di Cavour, three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, nine destroyers, fourteen torpedo boats, one minelayer, ten auxiliary ships and nine transport ships. [19] The ships were divided into four groups, that carried out landings in Vlore, Durres, Shengjin and Sarande, including the concession there given to Romania in 1934. However, the Romanian Royal Army were never deployed to the area and it was conquered by Italy, along with the rest of Albania, during the invasion. [19]

On the other side the regular Albanian army had 15,000 poorly equipped troops who had been trained by Italian officers. King Zog's plan was to mount a resistance in the mountains, leaving the ports and main cities undefended; but Italian agents placed in Albania as military instructors sabotaged this plan. The Albanians discovered that artillery pieces had been disabled and there was no ammunition.[ citation needed ] As a consequence, the main resistance was offered by the Royal Albanian Gendarmerie and small groups of patriots.

In Durrës, a force of 500 Albanians, including gendarmes and armed volunteers, led by Major Abaz Kupi (the commander of the gendarmerie in Durrës), and Mujo Ulqinaku, a naval sergeant, tried to halt the Italian advance. Equipped with small arms and three machine guns and supported by a coastal battery, the defenders resisted for a few hours before being overcome with the help of naval gunfire. [18] The Royal Albanian Navy stationed in Durrës consisted of four patrol boats (each armed with a machine gun) and a coastal battery with four 75 mm guns, the latter also being involved in the fighting. [20] Mujo Ulqinaku, the commander of the patrol boat Tiranë, used his machine gun to kill and wound many Italian troops until himself being killed by an artillery shell from an Italian warship. [20] [21] Eventually, a large number of light tanks were unloaded from the Italian ships. After that, resistance began to crumble, and within five hours the Italians had captured the city. [22]

By 1:30 pm on the first day, all Albanian ports were in Italian hands. That same day King Zog, his wife, Queen Geraldine Apponyi, and their infant son Leka fled to Greece, taking with them part of the gold reserves of the Albanian Central Bank. On hearing the news, an angry mob attacked the prisons, liberated the prisoners and sacked the King's residence. At 9:30 am on April 8, Italian troops entered Tirana and quickly captured all government buildings. Italian columns of soldiers then marched to Shkodër, Fier and Elbasan. Shkodër surrendered in the evening after 12 hours of fighting. However, two officers garrisoned at Rozafa castle refused to obey the ceasefire order and continued to fight until they ran out of ammunition.[ citation needed ] The Italian troops later paid homage to the Albanian troops in Shkodër who had halted their advance for an entire day.[ citation needed ] During the Italian advance in Shkodër the mob besieged the prison and liberated some 200 prisoners. [23]

The number of casualties in these battles is disputed. Italian military reports stated that at Durrës 25 Italians were killed and 97 wounded, while the local townspeople claimed that 400 Italians were killed. [3] Casualties for the Albanians were given as 160 dead and several hundreds wounded. [3]

On April 12, the Albanian parliament voted to depose Zog and unite the nation with Italy "in personal union" by offering the Albanian crown to Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III. [24] The parliament elected Albania's largest landowner, Shefqet Vërlaci, as Prime Minister. Vërlaci served as interim head of state for five days until Victor Emmanuel III formally accepted the Albanian crown in a ceremony at the Quirinale palace in Rome. Victor Emmanuel III appointed Francesco Jacomoni di San Savino, a former ambassador to Albania, to represent him in Albania as "Lieutenant-General of the King" (effectively a viceroy).

In general the Italian invasion was poorly planned, badly executed and succeeded only because Albanian resistance was worse. As Fillipo Anfuso, Count Ciano's chief assistant sarcastically commenced "...if only the Albanians had possessed a well-armed fire-brigade, they could have driven us into the Adriatic". [25] [26] [27]

Aftermath

Kingdom of Italy
Albanian Kingdom Albanian Kingdom (1939).svg
Flag of Albania, during Italian rule. Flag of Albania (1939).svg
Flag of Albania, during Italian rule.

On April 15, 1939, Albania withdrew from the League of Nations, from which Italy had resigned in 1937. On June 3, 1939, the Albanian foreign ministry was merged into the Italian foreign ministry, and the Albanian Foreign Minister, Xhemil Dino, was given the rank of an Italian ambassador. Upon the capture of Albania, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini declared the official creation of the Italian Empire and the figurehead King Victor Emmanuel III was crowned King of the Albanians in addition to his title of Emperor of Ethiopia, which had been occupied three years before. The Albanian military was placed under Italian command and formally merged into the Italian Army in 1940. Additionally, the Italian Blackshirts formed four legions of Albanian Militia, initially recruited from Italian colonists living in Albania, but later from ethnic Albanians.

1940 Albanian Kingdom Laissez Passer issued for traveling to Fascist Italy after the invasion from the previous year. 1940 Albanian Kingdom Laissez Passer issued for traveling to Fascist Italy after the invasion from the previous year.jpg
1940 Albanian Kingdom Laissez Passer issued for traveling to Fascist Italy after the invasion from the previous year.

Upon the occupation of Albania and installation of a new government, the economies of Albania and Italy were connected through a customs union that resulted in the removal of most trade restrictions. [28] Through a tariff union, the Italian tariff system was put in place in Albania. [28] Due to the expected economic losses in Albania from the alteration in tariff policy, the Italian government provided Albania 15 million Albanian leks each year in compensation. [28] Italian customs laws were to apply in Albania and only Italy alone could conclude treaties with third parties. [28] Italian capital was allowed to dominate the Albanian economy. [28] As a result, Italian companies were allowed to hold monopolies in the exploitation of Albanian natural resources. [28] All petroleum resources in Albania went through Agip, Italy's state petroleum company. [29]

Albania followed Italy into war against Britain and France on June 10, 1940. Albania served as the base for the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940, and Albanian troops participated in the Greek campaign, but they massively deserted the front line. The country's southern areas (including the cities of Gjirokastër and Korçë) were temporarily occupied by the Greek army during that campaign. Albania was enlarged in May 1941 by the annexation of Kosovo and parts of Montenegro and the Vardar Banovina, going a long way towards realizing nationalistic claims for a "Greater Albania". Part of the western coast of Epirus called Chameria was not annexed, but put under an Albanian High Commissioner who exercised nominal control over it. When Italy left the Axis in September 1943, German troops immediately occupied Albania after a short campaign, with relatively strong resistance. [30]

During the Second World War, the Albanian Partisans, including some sporadic Albanian nationalist groups, fought against the Italians (after autumn 1942) and, subsequently, the Germans. By October 1944 the Germans had withdrawn from the southern Balkans in response to military defeats by the Red Army, the collapse of Romania and the imminent fall of Bulgaria. [31] After the Germans left due to the rapid advance of Albanian Communist forces, the Albanian Partisans crushed nationalist resistance and the leader of the Albanian Communist Party, Enver Hoxha, became the leader of the country. [32]

Cultural references

The events surrounding the Italian annexation of Albania formed part of the inspiration for the eighth volume of The Adventures of Tintin comics titled King Ottokar's Sceptre , with a plot based on a fictional Balkan country Syldavia and uneasy tensions with its larger neighbour Borduria. [33] The author of the Tintin comics Hergé also insisted that his editor publish the work to take advantage of current events in 1939 as he felt "Syldavia is Albania". [33]

See also

Related Research Articles

The history of Albania forms a part of the history of Europe. During the classical times, Albania was home to several Illyrian tribes such as the Ardiaei, Albanoi, Amantini, Enchele, Taulantii and many others, but also Thracian and Greek tribes, as well as several Greek colonies established on the Illyrian coast. In the 3rd century BC, the area was annexed by Rome and became part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia, Macedonia and Moesia Superior. Afterwards, the territory remained under Roman and Byzantine control until the Slavic migrations of the 7th century. It was integrated into the Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century.

Zog I of Albania Former Albanian president and king

Zog I(Albanian: Naltmadhnija e tij Zogu I, Mbreti i Shqiptarëve, IPA: [ˈzɔɡu]; 8 October 1895 – 9 April 1961), born Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli, taking the surname Zogu in 1922, was the leader of Albania from 1922 to 1939. He first served as the prime minister of Albania (1922–1924), then as president (1925–1928), and finally as the country's king (1928–1939).

Chronology of Important Events of Albania:

World War II in Albania involvement of Albania in World War II

In Albania, World War II began with its invasion by Italy in April 1939. Fascist Italy set up Albania as its protectorate or puppet state. The resistance was largely carried out by Communist groups against the Italian and then German occupation in Albania. At first independent, the Communist groups united in the beginning of 1942, which ultimately led to the successful liberation of the country in 1944.

Vlora War 1920 conflict between Italy and Albania

The Vlora War or the War of 1920 was a series of battles between Italian forces garrisoned throughout the Vlorë region of Albania and Albanian nationalists, who were divided into small groups of fighters. The war lasted three months until an armistice; it had great impact in the struggle of Albania for the safeguard of its territories while Albanian borders and future were discussed in the Paris Peace Conference. The Vlora War is seen as a turning point in the establishment of Albanian independence.

Mehdi Frashëri Albanian politician

Mehdi Frashëri was an Albanian intellectual and politician. He served as Prime Minister of Albania in the 1930's and as Chairman of the Provisional Administration Committee in the Albanian puppet government under Nazi Germany.

Albanian Kingdom (1928–1939) 1928-1939 kingdom in Europe, predecessor of modern Albania

The Albanian Kingdom was the official name of Albania between 1928 and 1939. Albania was declared a monarchy by the Constituent Assembly, and President Ahmet Bej Zogu was declared King Zog I. The kingdom was supported by the fascist regime in Italy, and the two countries maintained close relations until Italy's sudden invasion of the country in 1939. Zog fled into exile and never saw his country again. The Communist Party of Labor of Albania gained control of the country toward the end of World War II, established a communist government, and formally deposed Zog.

Principality of Albania 1914-1925 monarchy in Europe, predecessor of modern Albania

The Principality of Albania refers to the short-lived monarchy in Albania, headed by William, Prince of Albania, that lasted from the Treaty of London of 1913 which ended the First Balkan War, through the invasions of Albania during World War I and the subsequent disputes over Albanian independence during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, until 1925, when the monarchy was abolished and the Albanian Republic declared.

Italian protectorate of Albania (1939–1943) kingdom in Southeast Europe between 1939–1943

The Italian protectorate of Albania, also known as the Albanian Kingdom or Greater Albania, existed as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Italy. It was practically a union between Italy and Albania, officially led by Italy's King Victor Emmanuel III and its government: Albania was led by Italian governors, after being militarily occupied by Italy, from 1939 until 1943. During this time, Albania ceased to exist as an independent country and remained as an autonomous part of the Italian Empire led by Italian government officials, who intended to make Albania part of a Greater Italy by assimilating Albanians as Italians and colonizing Albania with Italian settlers from the Italian Peninsula to transform it gradually into an Italian land.

German occupation of Albania 1943–1944 kingdom in Southeast Europe

The German occupation of Albania occurred between 1943 and 1944 during World War II. Before the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces on 8 September 1943, Albania had been in a de jure personal union with and was de facto under the control of the Kingdom of Italy. After the armistice and the Italian exit from the Axis, German military forces entered Albania and it came under German occupation, creating the client-state, the Albanian Kingdom.

Italian colonists in Albania

The Italian colonists in Albania were Italians who, between the two world wars, moved to Albania to colonize the Balkan country for the Kingdom of Italy. Many of them promoted the union of Albania to Italy

The Chameria battalion was a battalion of the National Anti-Fascist Liberation Army of Albania during the Second World War. It was formed from the organized resistance groups of Cham Albanians on 15 June 1943 and was renamed as the IV Chameria Group in October 1943, which ceased to exist after the Liberation of Albania. It included at the time of its creation more than 500 armed troops, the vast majority of whom were Albanians from the Greek part of Chameria region and the rest from the Albanian part, and about 40 members of the Greek minority in Albania.

National Liberation Movement (Albania) 1939-1945 insurgency in Albania

The National Liberation Movement, also translated as National Liberation Front, was an Albanian communist resistance organization that fought in World War II. It was created on 16 September 1942, in a conference held in Pezë, a village near Tirana, and was led by Enver Hoxha. Apart from the figures which had the majority in the General Council it also included known nationalists like Myslim Peza. In May 1944, the Albanian National Liberation Front was transformed into the government of Albania and its leaders became government members, and in August 1945, it was replaced by the Democratic Front.

Tefik Mborja Albanian diplomat and politician

Tefik Selim Mborja was an Albanian politician and lawyer. He served as the general secretary of the Albanian Fascist Party during the Second World War.

Albanian Navy (1914-1939)

Between 1914 and 1939, there were three separate Albanian navies. The first navy was short-lived, belonging to the Principality of Albania. The second Albanian Navy shared a similar fate, as it served the short-lived Albanian Republic. The third navy, that of the Albanian Kingdom, managed to last over a decade, until Italy invaded the country. The Republican and Royal Albanian Navies together formed the Zog era of the Albanian Navy, as King Zog founded the republic with himself as President before crowning himself as King of Albania. The Albanian Flotilla, small as it was, reached its peak during the Kingdom period.

Mujo Ulqinaku Albanian army officer

Mujo Ulqinaku was an Albanian sergeant of the Royal Albanian Navy, known for his resistance on April 7, 1939 to the Italian forces during the Italian Invasion of Albania. He was given the People's Hero of Albania award posthumously.

Durrës Castle cultural Monument in Albania

Durrës Castle is the fortified old city of Durrës, Albania. It is enclosed by city walls built in the late 5th century, and repaired and reinforced in the Middle Ages and early modern periods.

Albania–Italy relations Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Italy

Albania–Italy relations refer to the current, cultural and historical relations of Albania and Italy. Albania has an embassy in Rome and 2 general consulates in Bari and Milan. Italy has an embassy in Tirana and a general consulate in Vlorë.

The Battle of Durrës was one of the main confrontations during the April 1939 Italian invasion of Albania. It took place on 7 April, the first day of the invasion, between the Italian invaders and the Albanian defenders and resulted in an Italian victory.

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  5. Kokolakis, Mihalis (2003). Το ύστερο Γιαννιώτικο Πασαλίκι: χώρος, διοίκηση και πληθυσμός στην τουρκοκρατούμενη Ηπειρο (1820–1913) [The late Pashalik of Ioannina: Space, administration and population in Ottoman ruled Epirus (1820–1913)]. Athens: EIE-ΚΝΕ. p. 91. ISBN   960-7916-11-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) "Περιορίζοντας τις αρχικές του ισλαμιστικές εξάρσεις, το αλβανικό εθνικιστικό κίνημα εξασφάλισε την πολιτική προστασία των δύο ισχυρών δυνάμεων της Αδριατικής, της Ιταλίας και της Αυστρίας, που δήλωναν έτοιμες να κάνουν ό,τι μπορούσαν για να σώσουν τα Βαλκάνια από την απειλή του Πανσλαβισμού και από την αγγλογαλλική κηδεμονία που υποτίθεται ότι θα αντιπροσώπευε η επέκταση της Ελλάδας." "[By limiting the Islamic character, the Albanian nationalist movement secured civil protection from two powerful forces in the Adriatic, Italy and Austria, which was ready to do what they could to save the Balkans from the threat of Pan-Slavism and the Anglo French tutelage that is supposed to represent its extension through Greece.]"
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