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We (novel)

First English edition dust jacket, Dutton, New York.
Author Yevgeny Zamyatin
Original title Мы
Translator Various; See here for a list.
Cover artist Aleksander Rodchenko (1933–1934)
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian
Genre Dystopian novel, science fiction
Publisher Avon Books
Publication date
1920–1921 (written); 1988 (pub'd in USSR); 1993 (Penguin ed.)
Published in English
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 226
OCLC 27105637
891.73/42 20
LC Class PG3476.Z34 M913 1993

We (Gregory Zilboorg.


  • Setting 1
  • Plot 2
  • Major themes 3
    • Dystopian society 3.1
    • Allusions and references 3.2
  • Literary significance and influences 4
  • Publication history 5
    • Russian language editions 5.1
    • Translations 5.2
  • Adaptations 6
    • Films 6.1
    • Theatre 6.2
    • Music 6.3
  • Legacy 7
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


We is set in the future. D-503, a spacecraft engineer, lives in the One State,[2] an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret police/spies to inform on and supervise the public more easily. The structure of the state is analogous to the prison design concept developed by F. W. Taylor. People march in step with each other and wear identical clothing. There is no way of referring to people save by their given numbers. The society is run strictly by logic or reason as the primary justification for the laws or the construct of the society.[3][4] The individual's behaviour is based on logic by way of formulas and equations outlined by the One State.[5]


One thousand years after the One State's conquest of the entire world, the spaceship Integral is being built in order to invade and conquer extraterrestrial planets. Meanwhile, the project's chief engineer, D-503, begins a journal that he intends to be carried upon the completed spaceship.

Like all other citizens of One State, D-503 lives in a glass apartment building and is carefully watched by the secret police, or Bureau of Guardians. D-503's lover, O-90, has been assigned by One State to visit him on certain nights. She is considered too short to bear children and is deeply grieved by her state in life.

O-90's other lover and D-503's best friend is R-13, a State poet who reads his verse at public executions.

While on an assigned walk with O-90, D-503 meets a woman named I-330. I-330 smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, and shamelessly flirts with D-503 instead of applying for an impersonal sex visit; all of these are highly illegal according to the laws of One State.

Both repelled and fascinated, D-503 struggles to overcome his attraction to I-330. I-330 invites him to visit the Ancient House, notable for being the only opaque building in One State, except for windows. Objects of aesthetic and historical importance dug up from around the city are stored there. There, I-330 offers him the services of a corrupt doctor to explain his absence from work. Leaving in horror D-503 vows to denounce her to the Bureau of Guardians, but finds that he cannot.

He begins to have dreams, which disturbs him, as dreams are thought to be a symptom of mental illness. Slowly, I-330 reveals to D-503 that she is involved with the Mephi, an organization plotting to bring down the One State. She takes him through secret tunnels inside the Ancient House to the world outside the Green Wall, which surrounds the city-state. There, D-503 meets the inhabitants of the outside world: humans whose bodies are covered with animal fur. The aims of the Mephi are to destroy the Green Wall and reunite the citizens of One State with the outside world.

Despite the recent rift between them, O-90 pleads with D-503 to impregnate her illegally. After O-90 insists that she will obey the law by turning over their child to be raised by the One State, D-503 obliges. However, as her pregnancy progresses, O-90 realizes that she cannot bear to be parted from her baby under any circumstances. At D-503's request, I-330 arranges for O-90 to be smuggled outside the Green Wall.

In his last journal entry, D-503 indifferently relates that he has been forcibly tied to a table and subjected to the "Great Operation", which has recently been mandated for all citizens of One State in order to prevent possible riots;[6] having been psycho-surgically refashioned into a state of mechanical "reliability", they would now function as "tractors in human form".[7] This operation removes the imagination and emotions by targeting parts of the brain with X-rays. After this operation, D-503 willingly informed the Benefactor about the inner workings of the Mephi. However, D-503 expresses surprise that even torture could not induce I-330 to denounce her comrades. Despite her refusal, I-330 and those arrested with her have been sentenced to death, "under the Benefactor's Machine."

Meanwhile, the Mephi uprising gathers strength; parts of the Green Wall have been destroyed, birds are repopulating the city, and people start committing acts of social rebellion. Although D-503 expresses hope that the Benefactor shall restore "reason," the novel ends with One State's survival in doubt. I-330's mantra is that, just as there is no highest number, there can be no final revolution.

Major themes

Dystopian society

The dystopian society depicted in We is presided over by the Benefactor[8] and is surrounded by a giant Green Wall to separate the citizens from primitive untamed nature. All citizens are known as "numbers".[9] Every hour in one's life is directed by "The Table".

The action of We is set at some time after the Two Hundred Years' War, which has wiped out all but "0.2 of the earth's population".[10] The war was over a rare substance never mentioned in the book, but it could be about petroleum, as all knowledge of the war comes from biblical metaphors; the substance was called "bread" as the "Christians gladiated over it"—as in countries fighting conventional wars. However, it is also revealed that the war only ended after the use of weapons of mass destruction, so that the One State is surrounded with a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Allusions and references

Many of the names and numbers in We are allusions to personal experiences of Zamyatin or to culture and literature. For example, "Auditorium 112" refers to cell number 112, where Zamyatin was twice imprisoned,[11] and the name of S-4711 is a reference to the Eau de Cologne number 4711.[12]

The St. Alexander Nevsky, which was renamed Lenin after the Russian Revolution

Zamyatin, who worked as a naval architect,[13] refers to the specifications of the icebreaker St. Alexander Nevsky.

The numbers [. . .] of the chief characters in WE are taken directly from the specifications of Zamyatin's favourite icebreaker, the Saint Alexander Nevsky, yard no. A/W 905, round tonnage 3300, where O–90 and I-330 appropriately divide the hapless D-503 [. . .] Yu-10 could easily derive from the Swan Hunter yard numbers of no fewer than three of Zamyatin's major icebreakers – 1012, 1020, 1021 [. . .]. R-13 can be found here too, as well as in the yard number of Sviatogor A/W 904.[14][15]

Many comparisons to The Bible exist in We. There are similarities between

  • WeThe full text of (Russian)
  • WeThe full text of
  • translated by ZilboorgWeAudio recording of (A low-quality MP3 version can be downloaded free after registration.)
  • German adaptation (1981, television movie)Wir at the Internet Movie Database
  • The song I-330 by Canadian Heavy Metal band Torture for pleasure can be heard here.

External links

English: My wives, icebreakers and Russia. Russian: О моих женах, о ледоколах и о России.
The original date and location of publication are unknown, although he mentions the 1928 rescue of the Nobile expedition by the Krasin, the renamed Svyatogor.
The article is reprinted in E. I. Zamiatin, 'O moikh zhenakh, o ledokolakh i o Rossii', Sochineniia (Munich, 1970–1988, four vols.) II, pp. 234–40. (Russian)
  • Ermolaev, Herman; Edwards, T. R. N. (October 1982). "Review of Three Russian Writers and the Irrational: Zamyatin, Pil'nyak, and Bulgakov by T. R. N. Edwards".  
  • Fischer, Peter A.; Shane, Alex M. (Autumn 1971). "Review of The Life and Works of Evgenij Zamjatin by Alex M. Shane". Slavic and East European Journal (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages) 15 (3): 388–390.  
  • Gregg, Richard A. (December 1965). "Two Adams and Eve in the Crystal Palace: Dostoevsky, the Bible, and We".  
  • Layton, Susan (February 1978). "The critique of technocracy in early Soviet literature: The responses of Zamyatin and Mayakovsky". Dialectical Anthropology 3 (1): 1–20.  
  • McClintock, James I. (Autumn 1977). "United State Revisited: Pynchon and Zamiatin". Contemporary Literature (University of Wisconsin Press) 18 (4): 475–490.  
  • Myers, Alan. "Zamyatin in Newcastle". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-11.  (updates articles by Myers published in The Slavonic and East European Review)
  • Stenbock-Fermor, Elizabeth; Zamiatin (April 1973). "A Neglected Source of Zamiatin's Novel "We"". Russian Review (Blackwell Publishing) 32 (2): 187–188.  
  • Struve, Gleb; Bulkakov, Mikhail; Ginsburg, Mirra; Glenny, Michael (July 1968). "The Re-Emergence of Mikhail Bulgakov".  
  • Tall, Emily (Summer 1990). "Behind the Scenes: How Ulysses was Finally Published in the Soviet Union".  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (1962). "O moikh zhenakh, o ledokolakh i o Rossii". Mosty (in Русский) (Munich: Izd-vo Tsentralnogo obedineniia polit. emigrantov iz SSSR) IX: 25. 

Journal articles

  • Russell, Robert (1999). Zamiatin's We. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press.  
  • Shane, Alex M. (1968). The life and works of Evgenij Zamjatin. Berkeley: University of California Press.  
  • Collins, Christopher (1973). Evgenij Zamjatin: An Interpretive Study. The Hague: Mouton & Co. 


  • Sally Feller, Your Daily Dystopian History Lesson From Yevgeny Zamyatin: A Review of We
  • Joshua Glenn (23 July 2006). "In a perfect world: Yevgeny Zamyatin's far-out science fiction dystopia, `We,' showed the way for George Orwell and countless others". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 



  1. ^ Brown, p. xi, citing Shane, gives 1921. Russell, p. 3, dates the first draft to 1919.
  2. ^ The Ginsburg and Randall translations use the phrasing "One State". Guerney uses "The One State"—each word is
    All of these are translations of the phrase Yedinoye Gosudarstvo (Russian: Единое Государство).
  3. ^ George Orwell by Harold Bloom pg 54 Publisher: Chelsea House Pub ISBN 978-0791094280
  4. ^ Zamyatin's We: A Collection of Critical Essays by Gary Kern pgs 124, 150 Publisher: Ardis ISBN 978-0882338040
  5. ^ The Literary Underground: Writers and the Totalitarian Experience, 1900–1950 pgs 89–91 By John Hoyles Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (June 15, 1991) ISBN 978-0-312-06183-8 [9]
  6. ^ Serdyukova, O.I. [О.И. Сердюкова] (2011). Проблема свободы личности в романе Э. Берджесса "Механический апельсин" [The problem of the individual freedom in E. Burgess’s novel "A Clockwork Orange"] (PDF). Вісник Харківського національного університету імені В. Н. Каразіна. Серія: Філологія [The Herald of the  
  7. ^ Hughes, Jon (2006). Facing Modernity: Fragmentation, Culture and Identity in Joseph Roth's Writing in 1920s. London: Maney Publishing for the Modern Humanities Research Association. p. 127.  
  8. ^ Ginsburg trans. This term is also translated as "Well-Doer". Benefactor translates Blagodetel (Russian: Благодетель).
  9. ^ Ginsburg trans. This is also translated as "cyphers". Numbers translates nomera (Russian: номера).
  10. ^ Fifth Entry (Ginsburg translation, p. 21).
  11. ^ Randall, p. xvii.
  12. ^ Ermolaev.
  13. ^ Shane, p 12.
  14. ^ Myers.
  15. ^ "All these icebreakers were constructed in England, in Newcastle and yards nearby; there are traces of my work in every one of them, especially the Alexander Nevsky—now the Lenin;I did the preliminary design, and after that none of the vessel's drawings arrived in the workshop without having been checked and signed:
    'Chief surveyor of Russian Icebreakers' Building E.Zamiatin." [The signature is written in English.] (Zamyatin ([1962]))
  16. ^ a b Gregg.
  17. ^ Constantin V. Ponomareff; Kenneth A. Bryson. The Curve of the Sacred: An Exploration of Human Spirituality. Editions Rodopi BV.  
  18. ^ Ginsburg, Introduction, p. v. The Thirtieth Entry has a similar passage.
  19. ^ "Марсов, Андрей". Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  20. ^ Orwell (1946).
  21. ^ a b Russell, p. 13.
  22. ^ "Leonard Lopate Show". WNYC. 18 August 2006.  (radio interview with We translator Natasha Randall)
  23. ^ Playboy interview with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., July 1973.
  24. ^ Gimpelevich, Zina (1997). "‘We’ and ‘I’ in Zamyatin's We and Rand's Anthem". Germano-Slavica 10 (1): 13–23. 
  25. ^ "...Nabokov's book clearly echoes Zamyatin's We, (a book Nabokov had recently read when he was writing Invitation to a Beheading "). M. Keith Booker, The Post-utopian Imagination: American Culture in the Long 1950s. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002 ISBN 0313321655, (p. 50).
  26. ^ Orwell (1946). Russell, p. 13.
  27. ^ Bowker (p. 340) paraphrasing Rayner Heppenstall.
    Bowker, Gordon (2003). Inside George Orwell: A Biography. Palgrave Macmillan.  
  28. ^ Brown trans., Introduction, p. xvi.
  29. ^ Shane, p. 140.
  30. ^   "D-503": p. 55, 236. "it looked hopeless to try to catch up with the mighty Integral in anything that involved flights in earth orbit.": p. 215. Wolfe uses the Integral in several other passages.
  31. ^ Stenbock-Fermor.
  32. ^ Published in Diary of a Pilgrimage (and Six Essays).(full text)
  33. ^ In a translation by Zilboorg,
  34. ^ Brown translation, p. xiv. Tall notes that glasnost resulted in many other literary classics being published in the USSR during 1988–1989.
  35. ^ Tall, footnote 1.
  36. ^ "Libertarian Futurist Society: Prometheus Awards". Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  37. ^ Wir on the Internet Movie Database
  38. ^ Article on Théâtre Deuxième Réalité and its early productions
  39. ^ Bowker, Gordon (2003). Inside George Orwell: A Biography. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 340.  
  40. ^ Mayhew R, Milgram S. 2005. Essays on Ayn Rand's Anthem: Anthem in the Context of Related Literary Works. Lexington Books, p.134
  41. ^ Le Guin UK. 1989. The Language of the Night. Harper Perennial, p.218
  42. ^ Blair E. 2007. Literary St. Petersburg: a guide to the city and its writers. Little Bookroom, p.75
  43. ^ [10] Archived June 7, 2011 at the Wayback Machine


See also

We directly inspired Nineteen Eighty-Four,[39] Ayn Rand's Anthem,[40] Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed,[41] Aldous Huxley's Brave New World[42] and Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano.[43]


Released in 2015, The Glass Fortress is a musical and narrative adaptation of the novel by Rémi Orts Project & Alan B


Montreal company Théâtre Deuxième Réalité produced an adaptation of the novel in 1996, adapted and directed by Alexandre Marine, under the title Nous Autres.[38]


The German TV network ZDF adapted the novel for a TV movie in 1981, under the German title Wir (We).[37]



  • Zamiatin, Eugene (1924). We. Gregory Zilboorg (trans.). New York: Dutton. [6]  
  • Zamjatin, Jevgenij Ivanovič (1927). My (in Česky). Václav Koenig (trans.). Prague (Praha): Štorch-Marien.  [7]
  • Zamâtin, Evgenij Ivanovic (1929). Nous autres (in Français). B. Cauvet-Duhamel (trans.). Paris: Gallimard.  [8]
  • Zamiatin, Eugene (1954). We. Gregory Zilboorg (trans.). New York: Dutton.  
  • Zamjàtin, Evgenij (1955). Noi (in Italiano). Ettore Lo Gatto (trans.). Bergamo (Italy): Minerva Italica. 
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (1960). We. Bernard Guilbert Guerney (trans.). New York: Random House.  
  • Замјатин, Јевгениј (1969). Ми (in Српски / Srpski). Мира Лалић (trans.). Београд (Serbia): Просвета. 
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (1999) [1972]. We.  
  • Zamjatin, Evgenij Ivanovič (1975). Mi. Drago Bajt (trans.). Ljubljana (Slovenia): Cankarjeva založba. 
  • Zamyatin, Evgeny (1987). We. S.D. Cioran (trans.). US: Ardis.  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgenij (1988). BİZ (in Türkçe). Füsun Tülek (trans.). İstanbul (Turkey): Ayrıntı. 
  • Zamiatin, Eugeniusz (1989). My (in Polski). Adam Pomorski (trans.). Warsaw (Poland): Alfa.  
  • Zamjàtin, Evgenij (1990). Noi (in Italiano). Ettore Lo Gatto (trans.). Milano (Italy): Feltrinelli.  
  • Zamyatin, Evgeny (1991). We. Alex Miller (trans.). Moscow: Raduga.  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (1993). We. Clarence Brown (trans.). New York: Penguin Books. (preview)  
  • Zamiatin, Eugene (2000). We. Gregory Zilboorg (trans.). US: Transaction Large Print. (author photo on cover)  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (2006). We. Natasha Randall (trans.). New York: Modern Library.  
  • Zamjatyin, Jevgenyij (2008) [1990]. Mi (in Magyar). Pál Földeák (trans.). Budapest (Hungary): Cartaphilus.  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (2009). We. Hugh Aplin (trans.). London: Hesperus Press.  
  • Zamjatin, Jevgenij (2015) [1959]. Vi (in Svenska). Sven Vallmark (trans.). Stockholm (Sweden): Modernista.  
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny (2015). Nosaltres (in Català). Miquel Cabal Guarro (trans.). Catalunya: Les Males Herbes.  


Edited with Introduction and Notes by Andrew Barratt. Plain Russian text, with English introduction, bibliography and notes.
  • Zamyatin, Yevgeny; Andrew Barratt (1998). Zamyatin: We. Bristol Classical Press. (English) (Russian), Duckworth, 2006) Zamyatin: We (also cited as  
We was first published in the USSR in this collection of Zamyatin's works. (Brown, p. xiv, xxx)
  • Zamiatin, Evgenii Ivanovich (1967). My (in Русский). vstupitel'naya stat'ya Evgenii Zhiglevich, stat'ya posleslovie Vladimira Bondarenko. New York: Inter-Language Literary Associates.  
  • Zamiatin, Evgenii Ivanovich (1988). Selections (in Русский). sostaviteli T.V. Gromova, M.O. Chudakova, avtor stati M.O. Chudakova, kommentarii Evg. Barabanova. Moskva: Kniga. (bibrec (Russian) (bibrec) ) 
The first complete Russian language edition of We was published in New York in 1952. (Brown, p. xiv, xxx)
  • Zamiatin, Evgenii Ivanovich (1952). My. Niu-Iork: Izd-vo im. Chekhova. (bibrec (Russian) (bibrec) ) 

Russian language editions

Since 11 March 2007, the original novel is no longer copyrighted under the Berne Convention.

In 1994, the novel received a Prometheus Award in the "Hall of Fame" category.[36]

The novel was first published in English in 1924 by E. P. Dutton in New York in a translation by Nineteen Eighty-Four. A year later, We and Brave New World were published together in a combined edition.[35]

We was the first work banned by Goskomizdat, the new Soviet censorship bureau, in 1921, though the initial draft dates to 1919. Zamyatin's literary position deteriorated throughout the 1920s, and he was eventually allowed to emigrate to Paris in 1931, probably after the intercession of Maxim Gorky.

Publication history

The song "I-330" (2013) by Canadian heavy metal band Torture for Pleasure references one of the central characters in the book.

The song "We" by the progressive rock band Brazil references the Zamyatin novel on their 2004 album A Hostage and the Meaning of Life

Jerome's works were translated in Russia three times before 1917. Three Men in a Boat is a set book in Russian schools.

Jerome K. Jerome has been cited as an influence on Zamyatin’s novel.[31] Jerome’s short essay "The New Utopia" (1891)[32] describes a regimented future city, indeed world, of nightmarish egalitarianism, where men and women are barely distinguishable in their grey uniforms (Zamyatin's "unifs") and all have short black hair, natural or dyed. No one has names: women wear even numbers on their tunics, and men wear odd, just as in We. Equality is taken to such lengths that people with well-developed physique are liable to have lopped limbs. In Zamyatin, similarly, the equalisation of noses is earnestly proposed. Jerome has anyone with an overactive imagination subjected to a levelling-down operation—something of central importance in We. Even more significant is the appreciation on the part of both Jerome and Zamyatin that the individual, and by extension, familial love, is a disruptive and humanizing force.

In The Right Stuff (1979), Tom Wolfe describes We as a "marvelously morose novel of the future" featuring an "omnipotent spaceship" called the Integral whose "designer is known only as 'D-503, Builder of the Integral.' " Wolfe goes on to use the Integral as a metaphor for the Soviet launch vehicle, the Soviet space programme, or the Soviet Union.[30]

Orwell began Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) some eight months after he read We in a French translation and wrote a review of it.[26] Orwell is reported as "saying that he was taking it as the model for his next novel."[27] Brown writes that for Orwell and certain others, We "appears to have been the crucial literary experience."[28] Shane states that "Zamyatin's influence on Orwell is beyond dispute."[29] Robert Russell, in an overview of the criticism of We, concludes that "1984 shares so many features with We that there can be no doubt about its general debt to it," however there is a minority of critics who view the similarities between We and 1984 as "entirely superficial". Further, Russell finds "that Orwell's novel is both bleaker and more topical than Zamyatin's, lacking entirely that ironic humour that pervades the Russian work."[21]

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) must be partly derived from We.[20] However, in a letter to Christopher Collins in 1962, Huxley says that he wrote Brave New World as a reaction to H. G. Wells's utopias long before he had heard of We.[21] According to one translator of We, Natasha Randall, Orwell believed that Huxley was lying.[22] Kurt Vonnegut said that in writing Player Piano (1952), he "cheerfully ripped off the plot of Brave New World, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin's We."[23] Ayn Rand's Anthem (1938) has many significant similarities to We (detailed here), although it is stylistically and thematically different.[24] Vladimir Nabokov's novel Invitation to a Beheading contains a dystopian society with some similarities to Zamyatin's; Nabokov read We while writing Invitation to a Beheading.[25]

The little-known Russian dystopian novel Love in the Fog of the Future, published in 1924 by Andrei Marsov, has also been compared to We.[19]

  1. An examination of myth and symbol reveals that the work may be better understood as an internal drama of a conflicted modern man rather than as a representation of external reality in a failed utopia. The city is laid out as a mandala, populated with archetypes and subject to an archetypal conflict. One wonders if Zamyatin were familiar with the theories of his contemporary C. G. Jung or whether it is a case here of the common European zeitgeist.
  2. Much of the city scape and expressed ideas in the world of We are taken almost directly from the works of H. G. Wells, the (then) very popular apostle of scientific socialist utopia whose works Zamyatin had edited in Russian.
  3. In the use of color and other imagery Zamyatin shows he had breathed the same subjectivist air as had Kandinsky and other European Expressionist painters.

Christopher Collins in Evgenij Zamjatin: An Interpretive Study finds the many intriguing literary aspects of We more interesting and relevant today than the political aspects:

Along with Jack London's The Iron Heel, We is generally considered to be the grandfather of the satirical futuristic dystopia genre. It takes the totalitarian and conformative aspects of modern industrial society to an extreme conclusion, depicting a state that believes that free will is the cause of unhappiness, and that citizens' lives should be controlled with mathematical precision based on the system of industrial efficiency created by Frederick Winslow Taylor.

Literary significance and influences

The novel uses mathematical concepts symbolically. The spaceship that D-503 is supervising the construction of is called the Integral, which he hopes will "integrate the grandiose cosmic equation". D-503 also mentions that he is profoundly disturbed by the concept of the square root of −1—which is the basis for imaginary numbers (imagination being deprecated by the One State). Zamyatin's point, probably in light of the increasingly dogmatic Soviet government of the time, would seem to be that it is impossible to remove all the rebels against a system. Zamyatin even says this through I-330: "There is no final revolution. Revolutions are infinite."[18]

[17] made the novel a criticism of the excesses of a militantly atheistic society.[16],The Brothers Karamazov and Notes from Underground's Fyodor Dostoyevsky However, Zamyatin, influenced by [16]

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