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2021, vol. 55, br. 4, str. 1264-1285
Selo i (ne)povjerenje prema političkim institucijama društva
Univerzitet Crne Gore, Filozofski fakultet, Nikšić, Crna Gora,
Odnos između ljudi sa sela i institucija sistema kome pripadaju se najčešće ogledao u činjenici da su seljaci više podređeni globalnom društvu, državi i vladajućem režimu nego svi ostali slojevi u jednom sistemu zajedno. U malim društvima kao što je crnogorsko, njihov uticaj kao političkog činioca i aktivnog učesnika u kreiranju političkog života je minoran. Ova isključenost je rezultat prije svega malog broja ljudi koji su danas ostali da žive i rade na selu, te njihovih demografskih karakteristika. Uključenost u javno djelovanje se svodi na izvršavanje naloga, plaćanje poreza i izlazak na izbore da se (ne)podrže oni koji njima vladaju. Otuda proizilazi i počinje priča o (ne)povjerenju seljaka u politički sistem u kome živi. Predmet našeg rada je odnos seljaka prema društvenom poretku i političkim institucijama crnogorskog društva.


Montenegro, along with Serbia, is one of the few European countries that in the past few decades have redefined their state and legal status and social apparatus functioning in that order. After the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Montenegro and Serbia made a state union in 1992 - the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that was to be renamed into the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003. This fixed-length union formally ceased to exist in 2006, when the state and legal statuses of two old Balkan countries were restored. These transformations significantly led to the slow and inefficient development of the political institutions in both countries. Economic crises, sanctions and wars accompanied these changes and largely contributed to the fact that the institutional apparatus cannot be seen as an autonomous body for governing a society. In our case (according to all indicators and reports), the institutions were, just as during the socialist era, constructed as party branches with minimum autonomy.

Monitoring the public opinion surveys in the past five years and the final 2020 reports, we can see that the trust in the system institutions in Montenegro before the most recent parliamentary election reached its historical minimum (CEDEM, 2020, pp. 8-9). The logical consequence of the dissatisfaction and the lack of trust is also the first democratic change of the government in Montenegro. The research conducted by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) in August 2020 shows that the Montenegrin society places the greatest trust in the traditional institutions that exist in our territory, i.e. the educational system and the Serbian Orthodox Church. The churches and monasteries were the first classrooms and irreplaceable cultural and civilization sources of the Montenegrin nation, its culture and statehood, so this result comes as no surprise in the partly traditional Montenegrin society.

Historical context of the peasant's (dis)trust in the political institutions in Montenegro

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Montenegrin society belonged to an extremely traditional type of society, with autarkic natural agricultural production and the hardened social structure. According to the 1931 census, Montenegro had 360,000 inhabitants, with more than 80% living from agriculture, forestry and fishing. Agriculture was a dominant branch of economy, but its basic characteristics were land tenure disintegration and fragmentation, rather low income per area unit, underdeveloped commodity production, traditional method of farming the land, primitive means of production etc. (Bulajić, 1959, pp. 269-272). As a part of the large state of South Slavs, in the state-legally disenfranchised Montenegro, the strengthening of the institutional order was of marginal interest to the new authorities. In contrast, between two world wars industry gradually developed, leading to certain shifts in the social division of labour, the change in the development of some new branches of industry and, of course, the changes that also affected the demographic picture of our country.

After the Second World War, Montenegro officially became one of six equal republics in the new Yugoslav federation (according to the decisions of the National Assembly from 1945). The war was followed by the "rebuilding of the country and the building of socialism", which further aggravated the position of the peasants in the new state union. Of strategic importance in this model of socio-economic development was the orientation towards accelerated and forced collectivization of the village and the formation of the so-called peasant labour cooperatives. Administration in determining the buy-up quotas and repression in conducting the buy-up had a rather destimulating effect on the peasants' motivation, while their attitude to the system institutions (to the extent it was permitted) became antagonistic. "The obligations in the buy-up were determined by the harvest plan and not by the actually sown areas or achieved yields. Anything that was found was confiscated, regardless of the needs of the peasants themselves, while at the same time the peasants were pressurized into joining the cooperatives. Under the burden of the buy-up, many of them joined the cooperatives only to get away from the unbearable pressure exerted on private peasants" (Horvat, 1976, p. 785).

During this period, in Montenegro there was a pronounced need for creating the personnel and for developing the socialist social-political and economic system. Such processes started a real avalanche of those who migrated from Montenegrin villages and agriculture to towns and non-agricultural occupations (factories and the like). The opportunities offered by the town were diverse. Education and employment opened new channels of social promotion and the possibility of advancement on the hierarchical ladder of the society. In such circumstances, Yugoslav institutions ("selected" from the very top of the party organization) did not manage to ensure stability and efficiency of the developed democratic countries. Here, almost every ten years there was a constitutional reform (revolution) that perfected the ideological support to the functioning of the communist system. The only stability was provided by party cells and informal relationships and connections, while the system institutions were changeable under the party pressure.

In Montenegro, the period of the socialist governing of the village (1945-1991) was over by reducing the share of the agricultural population in the total population by more than 8 times, from 76% to 10% (Bakić & Mijanović, 2006, pp. 95-99). The exodus of the people from rural regions in Montenegro (as nowhere else in the territory of former Yugoslavia) was most substantially the result of the lack of a long-term strategy or a development policy for agriculture and the village.

After the fall of the socialist order, a radical and rapid change was expected of the entire social life and peasantry within it. The transition (transformation) of one system of government (socialism) should essentially mean the establishment of a new, socially more humane order, particularly through the affirmation of private ownership. However, according to Srđan and Marica Šljukić (Šljukić S., Šljukić М., 2018, p. 611), "the outcome at the end of the road is the same; peasantry ceases to exist, while the farmer, just like the entrepreneur, is completely connected to the market and industry. [...] More recently, the term "depeasantization" has been coined and defined as "erosion of the agrarian way of life that combines natural and commodity production".

The crisis of the social order transformation was manifested through the increased unemployment rate, insufficient economic activity, criminalization of economy, prolonged pauperization, while the war in the surroundings was the final product of such policies. The situation in the rural regions of Montenegro was closely determined by these events, and the position of the peasant in this social context became more and more unfavourable.

Under the influence of this social-historical and cultural constellation, the trend of the decreasing number of inhabitants who lived in the village and engaged in agriculture continued. What is today emphasized as the main indicator of the inadequate government policy regarding the village in Montenegro is the drastic reduction of the share of the number of farmers in the total population of the country. Only in the period between two latest censuses, from 2003 to 2011, the number of peasants went down by 3% of the share in the total population of our country, which is definitely not a small number even for larger and more developed societies, let alone the Montenegrin one (MONSTAT, 2011, pp. 10-14). These indicators clearly demonstrate the failed system attitude to the village and, consequently, depopulation of the rural region, with the tendencies of radicalization towards the entire disappearance of village population.

Decades-long prioritization of industry and urban settlements and the neglect of agriculture and the village have led to significant structural changes that are not in the function of their modern development. However, such action of the class of collective owners at the beginning and the transition winners at the end of the process has inevitably caused the reduced trust of the peasants in the institutions of the system in which they lived and worked.

A theoretical approach to the problem

Speaking of the political trust or distrust in the system institutions, most commonly there are two theoretical approaches. One of them is culturalist while the other one is institutional (Mishler, Rose, 2001). The culturalist approach to political trust depends on the attitudes and values transferred through the family from parents to children, while the emphasis is placed on putting forward social trust as one of the most important direct determinants. On the other hand, institutional theories emphasize efficiency and effectiveness of the institutions themselves as the main postulates of trust in the institutions, as well as the citizens' valuation of their functioning. "Therefore, Van der Meer and Decker consider the trust in national political institutions a consequence of rational valuation of the individual-state relationship, which depends on the competence, interest, responsibility and reliability of those institutions" (Sekulić, Šporer, 2010, pp. 5-11).

Moreover, when exploring the citizens' trust in the system institutions, it is necessary to mention the studies regarding the exploration of social capital as an important segment of social relations. For analyses of this type, of particular importance is Putnam's research that finds the efficiency of the institutions being primarily conditioned by economic, political or broader social circumstances. Putnam especially focused on socio-economic factors, first of all the gross domestic product, and the socio-cultural factors including civic engagement (political and non-political participation), political equality (equal rights and obligations for all members of the community), solidarity and trust (Putnam, 2003).

A large number of examples indicate that the relationship between the authorities and peasants is one of established mutual distrust. According to Henri Mendras, a large landowner feels as if in the midst of a siege in his feudal castle, while the worst can be expected from peasants, particularly if they are overwhelmed by the vengeful zeal. Then, the first wish of any peasants anywhere is to rob and burn the castle, together with the papers with the landowner's deeds, and to kill the courtier. To prevent this from happening, the government usually uses all the available means: police, legal, ideological and others, because all means are "good" if "useful" in keeping peace among peasants and subjects in general. "However, the best means for keeping peasants in their sacred recognition of the authority is to be on good terms with them so that they can truly love their dignitaries. It may be most easily achieved when there is a common enemy - for example, the king, the city, the red ones or the foreign ones" (Mendras, 1986, p. 255).

In recent times, similar mechanisms are still used, although manipulation of peasants relies on more subtle methods that also involve the use of the omnipresent electronic media. Nowadays, different ideas and subsequently final decisions are placed to peasants via television, and in this manner they are indirectly involved in the political network. According to Milovan Mitrović, "politicians and political parties, and even politics in general, reach the village and approach the peasant at the time and in the manner that suits everyone else more than the village and peasants. Once involved in politics, peasants are usually manipulated by their leaders, more easily and to a larger extent than all other strata - because they are less educated, more poorly organized and more helpless in the protection of their interests" (Mitrović, 1998, p. 254).

Apart from the above-listed examples, there are also those pointing to some traditional features of the peasant mentality that refer to public policies and the common good.. One of those features is the exaggerated scramble for limited natural goods in one area. This pattern of political acting is made on the base according to which the authorities in the country are perceived as a limited natural good. Social power and the institutional system are perceived as an a priori given political constant, so when some people gain it, other must proportionally lose it. Samuel Huntington calls this approach the limited good theory, where he explains the unscrupulous struggle over power, exaggerated and primitive "party behaviour" in all societies with no deeper civic-liberal tradition (Mitrović 1998, p. 303). Such semi-pathological and political phenomena are more or less common in all peasant societies, including Montenegro. Taking into consideration the fact that agrarian relations in Montenegro were for centuries under the influence of the tribe organization of the society and that the collective ownership long dominated over private ownership, we can claim that the limited good theory was particularly pronounced in Montenegro.

As it can be clearly seen from this theoretical introduction, the trust in institutions is closely connected to the social position, spatial distribution of people in a territory, and the attitude of the global society towards small local communities. Based on the above, we can also propose the main hypothesis of our research:

– It is assumed that those living in urban environments and with a higher socialstatus and, in that respect, using the connection with the institutions of the society, will alsohave more trust in domestic and international political institutions. Since in the past eightdecades Montenegrin peasants have been complete losers of transition and various systemsof government, they will also be more resistant to all institutions of the Montenegrin and European societies.

This hypothesis derives from a large number of studies proving that resistance towards institutions and European integrations is manifested more by the "losers" in the transition process, while the "winners" have a more positive attitude (Sekulić, Šporer, 2010).

Research method

In the preparation of the empirical part of this paper, we used the European Social Survey (ЕSS) conducted in the territory of 38 European countries every second year since 2001. Montenegro joined this project in 2018, when the last cycle of the survey was conducted. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey cycle planned for 2020 was postponed.

 The main goals of this survey are as follows:

  1. to recognize stability and changes in the social structure, circumstances and attitudesof the population in Europe, as well as to interpret how social, political andmoral changes in the European societies occur;

  2. to establish and promote the high standards of work in international research insocial sciences, including, for example, the design of questionnaires and pre-testing,the design of samples, data collection, the reduced partiality, and the reliability ofindicators;

  3. to introduce reliable indicators of national progress, based on the citizens‘ observationsand assessments of key aspects of their respective societies;

  4. to implement and facilitate the training of European social researchers for comparativemeasurements and analyses;

  5. to improve the visibility and use of data about social changes in academic circles,as well as among policy creators and broader public (

The data base was downloaded from, while the obtained data (presented in the charts and tables in this text) were processed by the author in the program SPSS 17.

The research sample is representative and includes the respondents selected by strict methods of random selection in each stage. The participants of the survey, whose answers were the subject of our analysis, are the inhabitants of Montenegro older than 15 (the upper limit was not established) who took part in the 2018 survey. The survey included the total of 1,200 participants from Montenegro (592 female and 608 male), out of whom almost 300 respondents came from the rural regions of Montenegro.


Before we proceed to the interpretation of the obtain data, we will briefly point to the results of the survey conducted prior to the latest parliamentary election in Montenegro, in the organization of CEDEM (2020). The dissatisfaction with the functioning of Montenegrin institutions was manifested in the results of this project and proved the continuity that was not interrupted in the Montenegrin society in the past decades. According to this survey, the trust in all institutions of the system records the same or similar trend as compared to the 2018 and 2019 surveys. "The percentage of the trust in the EU Delegation is 41.1%, in the police 40.9%, in the judiciary 39.7%, in the Army of Montenegro 38,3%, in non-governmental organizations 37.9% while only 36.9% citizens trust the prosecutor's office. The World Health Organization has the trust of 36.1% respondents, the NATO 33.9%, the President of the country 33.8%, the government 31.8%, the Parliament 29.4%, political parties 22.5%, while the least trust is enjoyed by the non-canonical Montenegrin Orthodox Church-only 12.8%. The educational system in Montenegro has the trust of 52% of the respondents, the Serbian Orthodox Church 46.4% and the healthcare system 43.4%, according to the survey of the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights" (CEDEM, 2020).

Looking at the results of our research (Table 1), we can see that the respondents' trust in Montenegrin institutions in 2018/19 was also at its historical minimum.

Table 1. Рангирање институција у Црној Гори / Ranking the institutions in Montenegro

1 Политичке партије / Political parties 3.02 1 Политичке партије / Political parties 2.99
2 Политичари / Politicians 3.03 2 Политичари / Politicians 3.01
3 Парламент Црне Горе / Montenegrin Parliament 3.92 3 Парламент Црне Горе / Montenegrin Parliament 4.16
4 Правни систем / Legal system 4.18 4 Правни систем / Legal system 4.34
5 Европски парламент/ European Parliament 4.68 5 Европски парламент / European Parliament 4.83
6 Уједињене нације / United Nations 4.70 6 Уједињене нације / United Nations 5.01
7 Полиција / Police 4.92 7 Полиција / Police 5.06

In the displayed data there is no statistical significance or a greater difference in the answers when it comes to the respondents' place of residence. In only two cases in relation to this ranking, the UN and the police were graded with more than 5.00 (the grades on the scale from 1 to 10). This phenomenon can be best explained by the fact that in the past three decades the Montenegrin society has undergone various crises in its functioning. For example, the 2016 parliamentary crisis and the functioning of the "truncated" Parliament was the worst blow to the institutions of the state apparatus. As a rule, this four-year-long problem in the Parliament functioning was also manifested through the lower degree of trust in this institution.

The non-functioning state apparatus and the economic crisis in the country and the surroundings were an overture for a deeper social drama of the Montenegrin society. Through "Tin" and "Envelope" affairs we came to the verge of detecting a broad network of social corruption. However, these processes are still waiting for their epilogue. Because of these reasons, it is small wonder that the trust is decreasing in the key political institutions of Montenegro (included in this research) - the Parliament, political parties and international political organizations functioning in this territory. Cumulatively speaking, all the above-listed institutions were perceived by the citizens as a generator or a silent witness of the corruption present in this territory in the past three decades. Only the police, as compared to all others, managed to get a better profile with slightly better grades. However, the trust in "these uniforms", which have not substantially contributed to the detection of high-level corruption in the past few decades, was also at its historical minimum.

It is due to the widespread corruption in all the pores of the Montenegrin society that the findings we reached in our research are not surprising. Looking first at the attitude towards the Parliament as the most important political body in Montenegro, it can be seen that, unlike the people from the capital of Montenegro, peasants and those living in small towns or suburban settlements have a slightly lower degree of trust. The trust in the Montenegrin Parliament, as can be seen in Chart 1, is mostly shown by the residents of Podgorica, both because of their spatial proximity to this institution, and the easier possibility and influence on the involvement in resolving some general problems of the society.

Chart 1 Повјерење у Парламент Црне Горе и мјесто становања
/ Trust in the Montenegrin Parliament and the place of residence

As we move from the centre of the capital, especially towards the rural and urban regions in the north, this level of trust in the Montenegrin Parliament decreases. Social exclusion and putting the inhabitants from the north in the periphery of social events make the trust in the system institutions decrease substantially in these regions. We can conclude that the trust in this high institution is at a rather low level because the cumulative result of trust is somewhere under the half of our sample. Here, it would be desirable to connect the respondents' trust with the above-mentioned institutional theories that emphasize efficiency and effectiveness of the institutions themselves, as well as with the citizens' valuation of their functioning. As it can be clearly seen from the results achieved by the Parliament, this model is almost inapplicable to the Montenegrin political reality.

In his research, Paul Lendis lists numerous characteristics attributed to peasants and emphasized the following: ambivalence to the city, the lack of activism, the feeling of inferior value, provincial views and fatalism as opposed to social activism (Mitrović, 1998, p. 286). The lack of social activism is reflected exactly in their (dis)trust in the second "column" of political life - political parties and politicians in the system of government. The low level of inclusion in direct decision-making processes is also manifested in our results. Politicians as individuals are trusted partially or fully by only 11.6% of our respondents in the village. The situation is not much better in the Montenegrin towns either, where this trust is at the level of only 16.8% of the respondents. A lower level of trust in the respondents' answers is also manifested in relation to political parties functioning in Montenegro. Absolutely no trust in political parties is shown by 49.1% of our respondents, while only 3.7% of the respondents fully trust the parties on the political scene of Montenegro. Based on this result, it can be seen to what extent the common inhabitants of Montenegro are "distanced" from the chosen political leaders and the places where important political decisions are made. Once again, their distrust does not differ drastically when we take into account the place of residence and the social status of the inhabitants. We believe that the shown distrust is the consequence of complete alienation felt by our respondent towards the political institutions of the Montenegrin system, as well as the utter inability to come closer to these institutions and to affect their functioning in any manner.

Finally, the trust in foreign policy institutions or the inevitable "third" factor of the political life in the Balkans (in this case consisting of the European Parliament, the European union and the United Nations) is, just like in most neighbouring countries, in an independent dimension in relation to the trust in the domestic system institutions. The trust in the European Union and the United Nations indicates a similar attitude of our respondents towards other European countries that were included in the research. The finding in Chart 2 shows that the foreign policy institutions record relatively the highest rates of trust among our respondents, although even that trust is at a seriously low level.

Chart 2 Повјерење у УН и ЕУ и мјесто становања
/ Trust in the UN & ЕU and the place of residence

However, the trust level here is significantly lower than in the results reached by CEDEM, and this finding may be quite indicative for future research. As in the previous findings, once again there is slightly larger support and trust of the residents of Podgorica, while a somewhat worse result is recorded among the inhabitants of smaller towns and villages. The lower level of trust is characteristic of the rural territories of Montenegro and, just like in the previous finding, it can be explained by the poorer involvement of the peasants in the decision-making processes in the public life of Montenegro.

What can be concluded at the very end of this result interpretation is a generally rather low level of trust of the inhabitants in both rural and urban regions in all ranked political institutions of the Montenegrin society. The manner of ranking in the village and in the town, ass displayed in Table 2, also shows a similar, dominantly lower level of trust.

Table 2. Пирсонови коефицијенти корелације повјерења људи који живе на селу у различите институције Црне Горе / Pearson‘s Correlation Coefficient for the village people‘s trust in the institutions of Montenegro

ИНСТИТУЦИЈЕ / INSTITUTIONS Повјерење у парламент Ц.Г. / Trust in the Montenegrin Parliament Повјерење у правни систем / Trust in legal system Повјерење у полицију / Trust in police Повјерење у политичаре / Trust in politicians Повјерење у политичке партије / Trust in political parties Повјерење у Европски парламент / Trust in the European Parliament Повјерење у УН / Trust in the UN
Повјерење у парламент Ц.Г. / Trust in the Montenegrin Parliament 1 .847 .727 .733 .653 .718 .722
Повјерење у правни систем / Trust in legal system 1 .742 .695 .646 .747 .692
Повјерење у полицију / Trust in police 1 .618 .579 .660 .618
Повјерење у политичаре / Trust in politicians 1 .875 .585 .569
Повјерење у политичке партије/ Trust in political parties 1 .566 .507
Повјерење у Европски парламент / Trust in the European Parliament 1 .892
Повјерење у УН / Trust in the UN 1

The evaluation of the trust in the Republic Parliament, the trust in the legal system, politicians and political parties, i.e. the European Parliament and the United Nations, has a correlation from .653 to .847. It points to the fact that the respondents living in the village in 2018/19 quite similarly perceived all the above-listed institutions of the Montenegrin society. What must also be pointed out is the fact that in the research itself (which included other institutions of the society too) there was no distinct difference between educational, defence and political institutions of the system.

Further research and interpretation of the results of (dis)trust in the political institutions of the Montenegrin system need to be directed towards the traditional-conservative value pattern of action, which largely determines (dis)trust in the domestic and foreign system institutions. Moreover, the above-mentioned culturalist approach cannot be avoided either, according to which trust depends on the attitudes and values transferred through the family from parents to children, while the emphasis is placed on putting forward social trust as one of the most important direct determinants. In the end, it would be desirable to include in more detail Putnam's concept of social capital because it unifies both private and public goods and creates the ambience that brings benefits both to the individual and the community, while the institutions should function to the general satisfaction of all actors in the society. To apply these models also means to put the survey questionnaire differently and to prepare the survey by different models. For these reasons, it is regretful that the above-mentioned 2019 survey did not include the Church in the system of surveyed institutions, which prevented us from making the correlation with the listed theoretical assumptions and the surveyed political institutions of Montenegro. We believe that the theoretical postulates might be used more adequately and that the results of our research would be more interesting to comment.


Contrary to the theoretical postulates and our assumptions, the trust in the political institutions of the system is not determined more significantly by the spatial position of the inhabitants of Montenegro. In the interpretation of our results, we saw no statistical significance on the basis of which we could confirm the established hypothesis or speak of a different degree of trust among the respondents from respective urban and rural environments. The political institutions of the system did not manage to adjust adequately to the inherited socio-economic processes, while the party and political pressure on them from the socialist era continued and deepened as well. That is why the results of our research or the reports of European observers in Montenegro are hardly surprising, since for years they have indicated the fact that the democratic institutional system has never existed to the full capacity of independence. The above-listed phenomena are manifested nowadays through huge problems at the top of our state apparatus, while also being visible through the continually decreasing trust of the citizens. These and related matters did not affect only the people living in urban environments; on the contrary, weakening and the final decline, i.e. loss of independence of the political institutions are the issues that equally affected and left a deep trace in the rural regions of Montenegro. The trust in the political institutions was at an equally low level both in the town and in the village.

When it comes to ranking the surveyed institutions, most research of this type distinguishes two groups of political institutions, or a pattern characteristic of the majority of the surveyed European countries. On one hand, in the majority of research, the lowest possible trust is clearly in the domestic political institutions of the system, the parliament, political parties, the legal system etc. The second group includes international institutions (the UN, the European Parliament and the EU), which once again won a rather low level of the citizens' trust. Symbolically greater trust in the European Union is part of the modernist matrix that has been favoured in the given territory in the past few decades, and that is why this slight increase does not need to mean anything. However, the indicator must be taken into account that international political institutions in Montenegro have a substantially worse result in comparison to the majority of the surveyed countries (Sekulić, Šporer, 2010). Tolerance shown by these political institutions towards the former regime and its public corruption affairs was also manifested through this research. The listed results will constitute an interesting starting point for all future research that will also include a larger number of institutions and the democratic change of government, as a phenomenon that took place in Montenegro after more than seven decades.


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O članku

jezik rada: srpski, engleski
vrsta rada: izvorni naučni članak
DOI: 10.5937/socpreg55-34630
primljen: 28.10.2021.
revidiran: 14.11.2021.
prihvaćen: 15.11.2021.
objavljen u SCIndeksu: 21.01.2022.
metod recenzije: dvostruko anoniman
Creative Commons License 4.0

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