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Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part II

The nations won't forgive us

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIZoya Bairovna, the fundamental series "Monuments of Folklore of peoples of Siberia and Far East" has three Tuvan volumes . How did this immense work originate?

It is more accurate to say: not how, but who. Doctor of philological sciences, Professor Soktoyev started it all.

In 1983, Alexander Badmayevich moved from Buryatia to Novosibirsk, and be3came the organizer of the Siberian people's folklore section, the first director of Philology institute of the Siberian section of Russian Academy of Sciences. And he founded the series "Monuments of Folklore of peoples of Siberia and Far East"; the plan was for sixty volumes.

He was an amazing man, a scholar with tremendous creative energy. His human charm, like a magnet, drew people to him. He could get them to develop enthusiasm and interest in an idea.

To those of little faith, who had doubts that such huge project in collecting all the folklore of Siberia and Far East into a single series could be realized, he used to tell: "The nations will not forgive us if we cannot handle this work." And he repeated it again and again.

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIToday, twenty-nine of the sixty volumes planned by Soktoyev have been published in Novosibirsk by "Nauka" publishers. Fifteen of them during Alexander Badmayevich's life, with his direct participation, and fourteen already without him: the professor left this life on 3 July 1998.

His students and colleagues continue his work, and the number of the volumes now projected is well over sixty.

Alexander Badmayevich began a great labor: the series that he founded, preserving disappearing languages and cultures is a unique monument to living word of the nations. And anybody can get acquainted with all these riches - the series was originally intended as folklore - in the original native language of each of the nations, and in translation to Russian.

Thanks to the expeditions to various regions of Siberia and Far East, led by Soktoyev personally, audio appendices were recorded for each volume of the series: stories of story-tellers sounded first on vinyl records, later on compact-discs.

Grandiose project uniting the nations, thanks to which the genuine voices of great bards, Siberian "Contemporary Homers", as Alexander Badmayevich called them, were preserved.


Voices Speaking in Many Tongues

And when did the work on the Tuvan part of this immense series start ?

It started with the scientific conference in Gorno-Altaisk in 1983. The first folklore expedition to Tuva was organized by Soktoyev in May 1984. And I had fabulous good fortune: because there was a lack of folklorist experts, Yuri Luduzhapovich Aranchyn - director of Tuvan scientific research institute of language, literature and history involved me, a literaturologist, in the work on the preparation of the volumes, and sent me on this expedition that decided all the rest of my academic fate.

The two-week expedition led by Alexander Soktoyev included musicologists, a representative of "Melodiya" recording firm, a photographer, folklorist and an artist. The itinerary went along the Sut-Khol district, with the end point in a picturesque place named Manchurek, the native place of one of the institute workers, a famous collector of Tuvan folklore Ondar Kish-Chalaayevich Daryma, and experts on Tuvan folklore.

On this and on following expeditions we recorded the voices and stories told by story-tellers; the best of them were invited to Kyzyl and recorded on tape in the institute basement - to keep outside noises from interfering.

The record-audio appendix to the "Tuvan folk tales" volume has stories of two story-tellers, performing in their own inimitable way.

Story-teller from Mongun-taiga, Sambuu Chuvurekovich Saaya tells the tale connected with the ancient calendar ritual of beginning of spring "Arganyn ak kodany" (White Hare of the Forest) - performed in the style yrlap ydar - chanting. Saryg-Shyyr Kyrgysovich Byshtak-ool from the Ulug-Khem district, in his tale about two brothers Ak-Sagysh and Kara-Sagysh, demonstrated a rare performance alganyp ydar - melodic recitative.

Now the voices of the story-tellers already sound on a compact disc - the appendix to the volume "Myths, legends and traditions of Tuvans". Among them is the representative of the story-telling school of Oorzhak Namzyrayevich Mannai - Borbak-ool Duktug-oolovich Saryglar from Bora-taiga village of Sut-Khol district. And also the representative of Tyulyush Khaldaayevich Baazanai's school - Andrei Ydamovich Chuldum-ool from Aryg-Bazhy of Ulug-Khem district. In 1988 we made a special trip to Abakan to record their performance on highly sensitive digital equipment.

The first folklore expedition was in 1984, and the result - "Tuvan folk tales" volume - was published only in 1994. Why did it take so long - ten years?

the work on an academic publication is a very long, painstaking process. It takes several years just to select the material. Several thousand manuscripts recorded earlier by scholars, and kept in the folklore collection of TNIIYaLI had to be read. Beside that, one had to travel throughout Tuva, so that the work would reflect Tuvan geography, and to find different variants of a single tale.

The most complicated part was the selection of the text, philological preparation, the translations, dictionaries, lexicons, introduction. Every year, the editorial team of the series "Monuments of folklore of peoples of Siberia and Far East" would meet in Novosibirsk; they would evaluate what was done so far, consulted and discussed.

The first volume - in 1990 - was "Evenk heroic tales"; one year later - "Buryat heroic epic "Alamzhy Mergyn" and "Russian epic poetry of Siberia and Far East".

1993 was an especially productive year: four volumes were released: "Yakut heroic epic "Kyys Debiliye", "Buryat magic tales", and two volumes of Russian Siberian and Far East tales.

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIThe eighth volume of the series - "Tuvan folk tales" was released in 1994. We had a public ceremonial presentation of this first Tuvan bird to leave the nest. This is how all the republics celebrated the release of the first volumes of this series.

The next volume "Tuvan heroic stories", compiled by doctor of philology Svetlana Mongushevna Orus-ool, was published in 1997.

Thirteen years later, in 2010, the twenty-eighth volume of the series - "Myths, legends and traditions of Tuvans" was released; the work on it began in 1987 in parallel to the work on the tales.

As the author- compiler of the volume "Tuvan folk tales" and the myth part of "Myths, legends and traditions" volume, I can say with confidence, that the work on the volume of myths turned out to be even more complicated than on the volume of tales.


Myths about Myths

But why did the myths prove to be more complicated than tales?

Because the existence of Tuvan myths was in general denied. When the volumes of the series "Monuments of Folklore of people of Siberia and Far East" were only in the planning stage, some scholars insisted that there are no Tuvan myths, and therefore such a volume should not be planned.

Really, on first sight it seems that myths are not characteristic of Tuvan folklore. When you say "myth", there is the idea of something majestic: images of Zeus, Olympos, Ancient Greece.

That is what many scholars thought as well. In Soviet times, mostly Greek, Chinese and Indian mythology was studied, and they considered myths to be the heritage of only civilized nations.

Some are vacillating even now. Even though the famous Yakut ethnographer and folklorist, doctor of history Nikolai Alexeyevich Alexeyev in his previous works, and also in the volumes of the series proved that all the indigenous Siberian nations - Yakuts, Buryats, Tuvans, Altai and Khakass people - have well developed traditional mythology.

I was among Nikolai Alexeyevich's supporters. Together with him and with professor, candidate of philology Dorzhu Sengilovich Kuular, who was responsible for some of the legends and traditions, we got to work. Towards the end, candidate of philology Zhanna Mongeyevna Yusha got involved in the editorial team of the "Myths, legends and traditions of Tuvans" volume.

This volume was released in November 2010. Unfortunately, Dorzhu Sengilovich Kuular never saw the book. And Nikolai Alexeyevich Alexeyev only got to hold it in his hands - he left this life that very night.

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part II– Was it difficult to prove the existence of Tuvan myths and to collect them under one cover?

– Very difficult. It was necessary to go through the entire collections of TNIIYaLI, to listen to all tape recordings of storytellers, made by scholars back in the Forties and Fifties. Because Soviet academics denied the existence of Siberian myths, scholars of that time documented the stories of story-tellers as history, legends, traditions, short tales, without even suspecting that they were myths.

People of the republic helped a great deal in collecting the myths. Having studied theoretical literature, I created a program in Tuvan language for collecting myths "How to differentiate between myths, legends, traditions and oral stories". I prepared a questionnaire and an article-request under the name "Dalaiga damdy duza" - "Even a drop helps make the sea". The article was printed in 1986 in journal "Shyn".

And letters began to pour in from all the corners of Tuva! More than a hundred letters with texts, with addresses of people to contact. It was clear that we were on the right track.

Our astute and far-sighted director Yuri Luduzhapovich Aranchyn, who had a good ability to communicate and obtain people's good will, attracted the teacher and writer Alexei Dugerovich Aranchor and invited him to work with us on the volume of myths as a collector.

And really, he turned out to be a good collector. Armed with my program, he traveled throughout the entire Tuva and collected more than a hundred myths. His name and photo are in the Introduction article of the volume and in the index of collectors of the texts. I summarized and continued the article in 1987, and I thanked everybody by name.

That same year, a regular convention of story-tellers took place, associated with a program about collection of myths, legends and traditions. As a result of all this work, several hundred myths were collected from archives and from live performers; then 190 of the best were selected.

Seventy-four of them were included in the "Myths, legends and traditions of Tuvans" volume. We proved that Tuvans have myths! A fuller collection of the myths - 191 - was published as a separate book under the name "Why did Chylbyga swallow the Moon?"


Why Chylbyga Swallowed the Moon

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIThat is extremely interesting: but why did Chylbyga swallow the moon?

When the burgan - a deity - was creating water of life that gave immortality, he read a sutra with closed eyes. And at that time the evil spirit Chylbyga swallowed the water of life and hid in heaven.

The Moon told the burgan where the evil spirit was hiding, and Chylbyga took her revenge on the Moon: she swallowed it. Soon the burgan caught up with her with his sceptre - ochurbaanai - and chopped her up to return the Moon to the people. The water of life poured out of Chylbyga on the earth, and evergreen trees grew from it. But there was no water of life left for people - so they could not receive immortality.

In the old times when there was a lunar eclipse, Tuvans believed that Chylbyga swallowed the Moon. People would beat on metal objects to frighten Chylbyga and to help the Moon come out of her again. They would also twist the tail of a black dog with rust-colored face markings to make it bark, because they believed that such a dog can see spirits and its barking can frighten them away.

Many Siberian people and Anatolian Turks have such an evil Chylbyga in their folklore. Only in Altai she is called Dzhelbege, in Kyrgyzstan Zhelmoguz-Kempir, and Kazakhs have Zhalmauz. This image is one of the most ancient in Turkic folklore. But the theme about the Moon being swallowed by her came to us in 18th century through Buddhism, and that, in its turn, took it form early forms of ancient beliefs of indigenous nations.

So, as it turns out, everything in Tuvan folklore is serious and closely connected with folklore of other people. But how does one differentiate a myth from a tale?

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIIt is very simple. A tale is an invention, a conscious product of imagination. A myth is an ancient story about deities and events that people believed were real.

Myths came about when people began to think about questions like that: why does the sun rise and set, how does an eclipse of the moon happen, how was Earth, sky, and the starts created? And myths answer these questions: this way, because.

Tuvan myths have answers for questions which have been long forgotten.

On working trips to various Siberian regions I noticed that many nations, as they continue to observe their traditions, adhere in their clothing to definite color symbolism, but not all of them can explain the meaning of the colors - that was lost with time.

Why is a Tuvan man's coat - ton dark blue, and his belt orange? Because they are the colors of the sky and the sunset.

Why should a Tuvan woman definitely wear jewelry? So that the soul of her child, when an unclean power is trying to steal it, could grab Mom's jewelry, hang on, and not be taken away.

There is an ancient reason for everything, and myths tell us what the reasons are.

Beside that, myths are food for inspiration.


Food for Inspiration

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIAnd who is inspired by this mythological food?

Myths are food for inspiration for writers, poets and artists.

For example, Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov gave the myths artistic meaning. The deeply philosophical images of the Mankurt, she-wolf Akbara, the White Mother-Deer that he created are based on widespread mythological themes of nomadic nations. And Tuvan writer Stepan Saryg-ool in his 'Story of a boy of light" also used myth as an ethnographic incursion.

The work "Kodur-ool and Biche-kys" also is rooted in myth. Salchak Toka reworked into a story the theme of a hunter meeting a female Master-Spirit of the taiga - a characteristic theme which is found in myths of many nations of South Siberia.

The opera "Chechen and Belekmaa" by Rostislav Kendenbil with libretto by Stepan Saryg-ool is also based on the myth about a hunter meeting the female Master-Spirit of a high mountain.

Alexei Oorzhak's and Khertek Shiriin-ool's plastic drama "Come back, my friend, come back", produced on the stage of Tuvan theatre of music and drama, is based on a legend about the igil - a musical instrument. And this legend, in its turn, comes from a myth which answered the question: "How did igil originate?"

Stone-carver Brigada Dupchur made a work from agalmalith" a mouse sitting on a camel. It is inspired by a myth about a little mouse who was the first to see the rays of the rising sun, and got into the twelve-year calendar cycle.

Today, when texts of Tuvan myths have been published, any artist, stone-carver, writer, director or choreographer can take them as a source of inspiration and create colorful productions. The volume of the series is available at the library of TIGI and in the institute bookstore.

Is the academic series "Monuments of Folklore of people of Siberia and the Far East" going to stop with the three Tuvan volumes ?

No. another three volumes are planned: "Song lyricism of Tuvan" "Ritual poetry of Tuvans", and "Folklore of Tuvans-Todzhans". Doctor of philology Svetlana Mongushevna Orus-ool was assigned as co-ordinator for them.

I now have another academic task: to finish and defend my doctoral dissertation about Tuvan myths: "Myth in folklore tradition of Tuvans: semantics, poetry and typology." Semantics - that is the themes, their content; poetry - artistic original features; and typology - comparison with myths of other elated people.


Greetings, Daughter of TNIIYaLI

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIWho are the story-tellers who had the greatest impact in your memory and in the Tuvan volumes of the series?

They are students of the prominent story-teller Tyulyush Khaldaayevich Baazanai from Ulug-Khem district: saryg-Shyyr Kyrgysovich Byshtak-ool and Dadar-ool Satovich Kyrgys.

In 1976 I recorded a magic tale with an interesting theme about Karaty-Khaan and the Golden Girl from Dadar-ool Satovich.

Orus Dongur-oolovich Kuular from Bayan-Tala village of Dzun-Khemchik district helped me with commentaries on Buddhist texts. Later we kept up correspondence. His letters always began with a touching greeting in Tuvan: "Greetings, Daughter of TNIIYaLI."

From the story-teller from Kara-Khol of Bai-taiga district, Balgan Lenchayevich Kuzhuget I recorded a tale "Chechen-Khayapchyk" about a wise young girl. I worked with Saaya Chuvurekovich Sambuu, who was a representative of Surunmaa story-telling school from Mugur-Aksy village of Mongun-Taiga district.

When I was collecting myths, I met an unusual shaman Dyl-Eres in Shambalyg village. His real name was Eres-ool Sotpayevich Sat. He did not open up to just anybody, and was picky about whom he would talk with.

He was a real shaman. Dyl-Eres had a unique ability to see the future in visions and in dreams, to cure infertility, insanity, bewitchment, curses. He had this place in the steppe - a grove of evergreen trees growing in a ring of about the diameter of a yurt. He used to say that it was a sign sent to him by his ancestors, and carried out rituals there.

During difficult times in my life he felt when his help was necessary and would come.

Who is a scholar that was your teacher and serves as a role model?

I can't name just one, because in four decades in academics I had the good fortune to work with many remarkable people. And each of them had qualities that were useful as a role model.

In 1977 - 1981, when I studied in Moscow as an aspirant at the Institute of World Literature of AN SSSR, I was the only aspirant of the famous literaturologist Rasim Faradzhullayevich Yusufov. He came from Dagestan not long before that. Other aspirants had to hunt for their graduate advisors and would not always find them. But Rasim Faradzhullayevich was exact and punctual: a meeting with his aspirant was always at appointed time, and detailed work was obligatory.

When I defended my candidate dissertation on 16 March 1983 on the theme of "Mutual influences of literary and folkloric traditions in Tuvan prose (material of 1940-1970), the first words of greeting and parting I got from Buryat literaturologist and folklorist Alexander Badmayevich Soktoyev. He himself defended his doctoral dissertation at the Institute of world literature, and on Rasim Faradzhullayevich's recommendation he took the role of an opponent on my defense.

The head of the literature section of TNIIYaLI, candidate of philology Anton Kavayevich Kalzan was my first teacher. He taught me to work as a literaturologist and folklorist, how to collect material and how to work with texts; he gave me my first lessons in field work.

Then I had teachers who taught me about tales. I traveled to Vilnius several times to meet with the famous Lithuanian expert, doctor of philology Bronislava Petrovna Kerbelite, for consultation about putting together an index of themes of Tuvan tales. Contact with her - a gear folklore expert - gave me the impetus for work with myths.

Research of German scholar Erika Taube, who in 1966, 1969 and 1977 collected and studied myths and tales of Tsengel Tuvans in Mongolia and published them in German was also a great help in my work.

We have not lost contact to this day, and we meet at international academic conferences.

Great scholars helped me to take my first steps: director of TNIIYaLI Luduzhapovich Aranchyn, deputy director Nikolai Alexeyevich Serdobov who hired me, a village school-teacher, to work at TNIIYaLI. They were the ones who have put me through a real academic schooling.

And I am still undergoing schooling by Dorug-ool Aldyn-oolovich Mongush, who is the chief editor of all the Tuvan volumes of the series.

Now I have myself become a mentor. My followers now work at TIGI, which is the new name of TNIIYaLI: academic secretary Lyudmila Salchakovna Mizhit, head of literature section Uran Aldyn-oolovna Dongak, head of manuscript collections Vasiliy Savyrovich Salchak, and the head scientific worker of Mongolistics section Antonina Saar-oolovna Dongak. Three of them have defended their candidate dissertations.


One family - 81 Human Fates

Zoya Samdan. It takes a Long Time to Tell a Tale. Part IIHas anyone else from your large family followed the academic path?

Each of us - seven brothers and sisters - has chosen their own path.

Oldest brother Sedip Bairovich Arakchaa finished the geological institute of MGU, worked as a geologist for many years, and later in one of the leading positions in Supreme Khural and Trade unions, he was Minister of Labor of the republic. Now he is in well-deserved retirement. We all have a tremendous respect for him, we even become shy in his presence.

Middle brother Viktor Bairovich Arakchaa was a tractor-driver, chauffeur, an a person with huge sense of humor. He became sick and left this life at 38 years of age. Our sister-in-law Karai Kangyyevna brought up their three sons by herself and put them on their feet.

Brother Nikolai Bairovich Arakchaa and his wife Oyuu Chorbaayevna are my most dependable base at home. After retirement, they moved to Kuran village. Nikolai is a real man, a professional hunting expert, and at his age of 63 he can walk immense distances in the taiga; he loves nature, teaches hunting to young people, grows a vegetable garden, keeps cattle and has a great authority in Tes-Khem district.

Younger brother Sergei Bairovich Arakchaa is a retired lieutenant colonel of the militia. Now he works as the chief of Civil Defense and Emergency Situations at the republic's pediatric hospital. He is our favorite, excellent guitar-player and mentor to numerous nephews.

Oldest sister Svetlana Bairovna Danzyn-ool is a journalist; she worked for the republic's TV-Radio company for 35 years. She is very sociable, feisty, responsive. She could not sit at home after retirement: now she works at Sukpak school and at the "Evrika" center of Kyzyl kozhuun as a pedagogue in an association of young correspondents.

She is our second mother, and her husband Kim Danilovich Danzyn-ool is our second father. When our mother got sick, Svetlana and her husband took all our upbringing upon themselves, and they officially adopted Sergei, who was in fifth grade. Kim Danilovich Danzyn-ool is a pedagogue, he was my teacher of Russian language and literature in fifth grade, and had held leading positions for 33 years: at first in the Supreme Soviet of Tuvinian ASSR, then of Republic Tyva.

All of us call our sister and her husband Senee-mama and Kim-Achai. They were the ones who sent me off to Irkutsk to school, helped to set me up at TNIIYaLI, saw me off to aspirant work in Moscow, picked me up from obstetric hospital and they continue to see me off an welcome me back from distant travels.

I think that Mother and Father, if they were alive, would be proud of their children. Three of them have titles of merit of Republic Tyva: Sedip Bairovich - Merited Worker, Svetlana Bairovna - Merited Worker of Culture, and me - Merited Scholar.

81 people - that is how many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, together with all their wives and husbands, Oyuu Bulchunovna and Bair Amyrdaayevich Arakchaa have now.

And what is your contribution to this solid number of descendants to continue the family?

One son - Saidash Nikolayevich Samdan; he is an artist-designer.

My daughter-in-law Raisa studies to be an economist. I have two grandsons. Older - Sasha - is eleven, and the younger, Chingis, is three.

Saidash is my chief support. As a person who has worked in jewelry and advertisement quite a bit, he teaches me how to live according to the laws of the market, and opens my eyes to the problems of today's young people.

From his judgment and actions I see the cardinal changes in world-view and psychology of the generation born in the Seventies, the difficult and responsible burden of a transitional era they carry. It makes them more mobile, practical and endurant.


You Will End Up Washing Floors Just Like Her

Is Saidash's father also involved in the academic world?

No, he is in the world of arts. I met my future husband Nikolai Samdan, Saidash's father, in 1970 at a Young Pioneer camp "Sailyg-Khem" in Tes-Khem district. I was undergoing summer practical training after the third year of institute, working as a pioneer leader, and Nikolai as a music leader. He was also a student at State School of Circus and Estrada Arts in Moscow.

When I became an aspirant he came to Moscow and entered a school-studio MKhAT, and studied to be an artistic producer.

The three of us lived in Moscow for three years. Saidash was set up in the kindergarten. We worked and studied: I worked as a cleaning-lady at the school, and my husband in yard maintenance - he swept the schoolyard.

First thing in the morning I had to grab a rag and a bucket: I had to wash the floors before the morning classes started.

Grandmas would bring their grandsons to the school and pointed their fingers at me, telling them: "Look, study well, or you'll end up washing floors just like her." It never even crossed their minds that the cleaning-lady was practically a candidate of sciences. There is no way to explain that you are a graduate student-aspirant when you are standing there with a mop in your hands.

So I would wash the school, and the rest of the day I would be at the dissertation hall of the main library of the country - Lenin's Library - studying. But in the evenings we still managed to go to shows and theatre, or entertain guests.

We lived in rooms for technical staff of the schools. Because of being so sociable and hospitable, we moved eight times from one school to the other in three years: we had so many guests from Tuva and Moscow that our neighbors and the administrations did not like it at all.

We survived all these complications without problems: just like it always is with young people, we lived lightly and cheerfully. But our family life did not continue for long: Nikolai started another family and we separated.

And I submerged myself in my work, in the academics.


Gift of Fate

Today, looking back on the past, do you regret that you immersed yourself in your work and possibly missed something in personal life?

No. I consider it a great good fortune that my life worked out precisely like this: to spent my whole life researching traditional spiritual culture of my nation. I met so many remarkable peole along the way!

There are scholars who can be called "indoor" types: they never travel anywhere, and work only with papers and books. But study of folklore does not let you sit at a desk. One has to travel to the villages, sheep herding stations all the time, because live folklore is fast disappearing, and the expert story-tellers are leaving us.

For me every expedition is not just an academic but also a vital necessity, it activates me for the whole year. One gets to stay outdoors in nature, work with people, and right away many new themes and ideas are born. As you finish one theme, it leads to the next one.

So as I began with the study of Tuvan literature, it led to the tales, and they in their turn led to myths. It is an imaginary chain: from the granddaughter-literature - to the mother-tale, and from mother-tale to grandmother-myth; then there is the great-grandmother - language.

Those are my three muses, and I have served each of them at least ten years; and in parallel for 37 years to all three.

I consider the epic of my work on the folk tale and myth Tuvan volumes a gift of fate.

Working on these volumes, I literally felt I was traveling in time and space. Collecting the folklore, I traveled all over Tuva with my colleagues, I read several thousand tales and myths in the archives, I listened to thousands of meters of tape recordings with the living voices of story-tellers who lived in various corners of our republic at various times.

I am confident that all this was not in vain. The books of the "Monuments of Folklore of Peoples of Siberia and Far East", collecting and uniting the cultures of various nations will be relevant throughout all time.

Because they come from the nation and return to it.

Sayana Ondur, Center of Asia, translated by Heda Jindrak
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