Tenkanen-Tengén Family History

According to the Sakkola parish registry a married couple Jöran Tenganen (Yrjö Tenkanen, present standard form of the name) and Anna Toiviainen lived in the village of Karhola in the early 18th century. They are the ancestors whose descendants’ and their spouses’ history the Tenkanen-Tengén family association has been charting since 1956. The first family book with a register of about 1,000 persons was published in 1970. The second one, published in 1992, included a register of about 2,200 persons.

Click to open a bigger version of the map.Extract from the map on the “Great Land Consolidation” (“isojako”, carried out by the Cadastral Survey Authority) in the Karhola village, Sakkola parish.
Click the miniature map on the left to open a larger map with a description in a separate window.

When preparing the first family book, each descendant, both male and female, was given a hierarchical identification code (ID) consisting of letters from A to Z indicating the person’s generation counting from the ancestor and ancestress, and the position in the birth order amongst one’s siblings. The system allowed easy comparison of relationship between any family members. E.g., the family code AAa indicates that the person has been recorded as the first child of the first child of the ancestor; ABc tells that the person has been recorded as the third child of the second child of the ancestor. The first two generations were marked in capital letters for easy distinction of the main family lines. The number of identical letters counting from the start of the ID would indicate the degree of closeness of relationship between any two family members. When the second family book was being compiled, the original IDs were retained to make it possible to compare the registries of the new and old book, even if there were several cases where new information had emerged on children who were born earlier than one or more of their siblings mentioned in the old registry. Instead of following strict logic and reassigning the alphabetical IDs for complete family lines, these ”new“ members were given IDs using the first available letter within their families already recorded.

The spelling of the family name has varied over time. In addition to the most frequent form Tenkanen, the name has been written as Tengain(en), Tenkain(en) and Tenganen, to mention just few. Not all persons called Tenkanen belong to the family stemming from the Sakkola-based ancestors. E.g., there is a smaller family line with the name Tenkanen, stemming from persons recorded in the parish registry of Salmi and surroundings. No family relation between these two lines has been found.

People with names Tenka and Tenkanen in the 17th century

Click to open a bigger version of the map.Extract from a topographic map in the scale of 1:20,000 depicting the Sakkola parish area before the Second World War. Click the miniature map to open an enlargement in a separate window.

The majority of the population of the Sakkola parish area were Lutheran descendants of crown tenant farmers and people without landed property, immigrated soon after the Stolbova peace treaty (1617) from the west, mainly from the Äyräpää county. Only a small minority of the original Orthodox population remained in place. However, Offonasi Denkainen (Oppo or Ohvo Tenkainen), an Orthodox peasant from the Korholanjaama village (part of the later Metsäpirtti parish) is mentioned in the fiscal land cadastre (maakirja) dating from 1631 (Joensuu University 1987, p. 396).

Other early literary traces of the surname Tenkanen or its variations worth mentioning are markings of Hindrich Tenga (Heikki Tenka) in fiscal land cadastres dating from 1608 and 1613, and of a Lutheran peasant recorded in 1631 by the name of Brusius Denga (Prusi Tenka), born in the beginning of the 17th century, his brothers Juhana and Pentti Mikonpoika, and uncle Niilo Eerikinpoika, all from the village of Immalanjärvi in the Ruokolahti parish. Prusi seems to have had origins in the H(u)uhtanen (Huhtamies?)family from the parish of Jääski. He had at least three sons: Pekka, Simo and Heikki Tenka, all of them mentioned as inhabitants of the Immalanjärvi village (source: kinds of fiscal census lists (manttaaliluettelo) from 1660 and 1663). Prusi’s brothers had also sons, but they lived on the Hu(u)htanen farm. Prusi seems to have moved from there to Denga’s farm by marriage, or after the original owner had fled for Russia. When Prusi grew old, he moved back to the Hu(u)htanen farm. Denga, Denka, Tenka etc were fairly common given names amongst Karelian Orthodox men, derived from Dometios (Greek for “domesticator”) (see source 9).

Antti Antinpoika Tenkoin(en) from the Ruokolahti parish was recorded for infantry in 1621, but in the records created between the years 1627 and 1634 he was mentioned as one of the recruits who did not enter the military service and listed as missing.

The farm of Brusius (Prusi) Tenka became part of a military recruiting farm group (ruotu) for the infantry regiment in the province of Vyborg. A ruotu was usually formed by four self-supporting farms which together were normally obligated to provide one soldier. The farm of the Hu(u)htanen family also belonged to the ruotu of Tenka. The surname of a recruited soldier was often determined by the name of the ruotu, disregarding the actual farm or family he was taken from.

In 1694, Erkki Erkinpoika Tenkainen, a soldier belonging to captain Henrik Kondrad Turteltaube’s company (Ruokolahti company), was married to Malin Matintytär Mustoinen in the Vyborg parish. Erkki came from the Hu(u)htanen farm. He is also mentioned in the military review recordings of the company in June 1696 (in Narva) and August 1700 (near Riga).

Pawilko Tenkainen, an Orthodox farmer from the village of Siikasalmi in the parish of Liperi, is mentioned in the fiscal records from 1631. There are also markings of Maksimko Jurev Tinkonen’s family (3 persons) and Vaska Jurev Tinkojev’s family (2 persons) from the neighbouring village of Käsämä in the Russian list of refugees who had fled from Karelia for Russia after the Stolbova peace treaty in 1617. In 1631, they had fled for Sermas, a pogost situated on the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga near the mouth of the river Syväri. The names “Tinkonen” and “Tinkojev”, written by a Russian scribe, might well refer to the name “Tenkain”, a form in which Tenka((i)nen) was likely to have been written by a Swedish scribe, and the only name found in the records in the surroundings of the Käsämä and Siikasalmi villages around the year 1630 that phonetically resembles them.

A farmer by the name of Mikko Tenkainen from the Duderhof (Tuutari) pogost (located on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, opposite to the Äyräpää county), is mentioned in the tax revision documents (p. 624) of Ingria in 1630. The pogost situated in the Noteburg (Pähkinälinna) province. Mikko had at least three sons: Ruuska, Selukka and Jigor. This family, too, was Orthodox by religion.

At the end of the 17th century Pekka Tenkainen from the village of Ojavois in the Sortavala parish, and Heikki Tenkainen from the neighbouring village Ihaksela, are recorded. The same Heikki (probably a crown tenant farmer) or another person with the same name, was recorded by the surname of Tenka in the 1695 and 1696 household-tax records (savuveroluettelo) of the village Ojavois in the Sortavala parish. There is no evidence whether Pekka and Heikki were sons of Prusi Tenka from the Immalanjärvi village of the Ruokolahti parish.

The parents with the names Anna Tenka and Elias Lattu from the village of Ilme are mentioned in the 1693 baptising records of the Hiitola parish. In the judicial minutes of the district courts of the Käkisalmi province, dated February 1699, Simon Tenko, a farmer from the village of Soskua in the Kurkijoki parish, is mentioned.
From where did the ancestors of the Tenkanen family arrive in Sakkola?

Aaron Tenkanen (b. 1880) told in the constitutive family meeting in 1956 that, according to oral lore, the ancestor would have arrived in Sakkola from Estonia. It is a well-known fact that already in 17th century so many Finns – tempted by taxation benefits and freedom from military recruitment – had moved from the province of Vyborg to the Northern Estonia that they formed approximately 10% of the population in the county of Virumaa (Palli 1995). The Finnish immigrants inhabiting the Narva district had even built a church of their own.

When a Finnish-Swedish military colony in Narva was established, the soldiers might have been given a land parcel for farming. It was customary to bring along not only the family but also cattle (see Luukko 1967, pp. 175–177). As late as in 1725/26 in the neighbouring parish Vaivara there were farms which were cultivated mainly by Finnish farmers or their descendants (see source 3). Jyri was one of the most frequently appearing names. But no markings of surnames Tenkanen or Toiviainen have been found, which is not a surprise as it was common to not record peasant surnames. However, in or about the year 2000, the surname Tenga is mentioned ten times in the civil registry of Estonia; most of these people were living in the surroundings of Tartu. The surname Toivi appeared less frequently. It is not impossible that some of these names could have Karelian origins. E.g., it is known that altogether 44 soldiers from Jääski were recruited to the garrison of Narva in 1627 (Ylönen 1957, p. 822). However, in the lack of better evidence for the Estonian origins of the ancestor, it is reasonable to have a look on alternative possibilities.

The first markings of the ancestors of our family are found in the parish registry of Sakkola in 1736. Neither the surname Tenkanen or any of its variants are mentioned in the civil registries (registers of residents created by clergymen in 1722–1724) of Old Finland (Finnish province of Russian Viborg).

As for the surname Toiviainen, the nearest location with early parish registry markings is Pyhäjärvi, a parish adjacent to the Sakkola parish. Two members of the family Toiviainen appear to have moved there from the parish of Hiitola. There are also markings on the family members of Juhana Matinpoika Toiviainen from Hiitola in the parish registry of Rautu, and in the 1756 district court minutes, indicating them to have moved to Rautu in 1730’s, at the latest.

However, there is no written evidence indicating family relationship between Yrjö Tenkanen from Sakkola and any of the aforementioned people with the name Tenkanen, Tenga, etc., nor relationship of Anna Toiviainen with any of the people with the surname Toiviainen living in the late 17th or early 18th century in the surroundings of Pyhäjärvi, Hiitola, Jääski, Ruokolahti or Rautu.

In 1723, after marking on ground of the new border between Sweden and Russia, as many as 40% of the regular Ruokolahti farms mentioned in the fiscal land book (maakirja) were found as “non-taxable” or “deserted”. The fact raises a question whether the ancestor Yrjö Tenkanen moved to Sakkola around 1724 and 1725 from the surroundings of Ruokolahti? Due to the lack of contemporary parish registries or other relevant literary sources, the question cannot be answered.

Reino Tenkanen (a cinematographer b. 1899) mentioned in the 1968 family reunion that Aapro Martinpoika Tenkanen, the caretaker of the forest parcel of Reino’s home farm, told him that according to oral lore the ancestor Yrjö Tenkanen had lived as a prisoner of war in Nizhny Novgorod, 420 kilometres east of Moscow. Nizhny Novgorod indeed was one of those Russian towns where imprisoned soldiers of the Swedish army, including Finnish soldiers, were known to have lived. Two officers from the Finnish regiments are mentioned by name in the documents of the Swedish National Archives (Riksarkivet): colonel Jurgen Johan Lode and major Adam Reinhold Nieroth, who belonged to the infantry regiment formed of extraordinary ruotu soldiers (so called “thirds”, kolmikas) recruited in the Tavastia, Savonia and Vyborg provinces. Some of the officers were imprisoned in August 1704 when the Russians conquered the Narva fortification.

It is known that most of the soldiers who defended Viborg against the Russian army for several months in 1710 were (de facto) imprisoned and taken to Russia. They were normally freed only after the peace treaty was made in 1721. It is possible that Yrjö (Jyri, Jöran etc.) Tenkanen has been one of them. Many Finnish soldiers were taken farther off from Nizhny Novgorod, particularly to Tobolsk in Siberia.

When Reino Tenkanen was later interviewed by members of the family counsel, he mentioned that, according to the story told by Aapro Tenkanen, the ancestor had been an excellent shooter and therefore served in Nizhny Novgorod as a fur hunter on a baron’s estate. When the war was over he was said to have received a flintlock type of a hunting rifle as a farewell gift from the baron. Furthermore, the ancestor was mentioned to have a well-shaped hawk-like nose suggesting origins in the French nobility. Further, the ancestor’s surname was said to have been recorded in the Tallinn parish registry in a French form (Tengain?). According to Reino’s story, the ancestor had crossed the Gulf of Finland on a galeas from Tallinn to the mouth of the Vantaa river. From there he was said to have continued by foot to the shores of Pyhäjärvi (part of the former Sakkola parish).

Much of this is clearly fiction, fabricated (partly probably by Reino) for the pleasure of telling an original and humorous story. But if the ancestor indeed had lived as a prisoner of war in Nizhny Novgorod, he could have returned to Ruokolahti or the surroundings in the summer of 1722, at the earliest.

Tenkanen (Tengain etc.) was probably a well-known soldier name in the Ruokolahti company during the Great Nordic War. However,Tengain etc. has not been mentioned in the records on the first groups of freed soldiers shipped back from Russia. Similar lists on possible later arrived groups have not been found.

If a freed ruotu soldier was still fit to serve and belonged to the regular regiment, he would be obligated to continue serving in his former task, which during the peace time would mainly mean working on his home farm. Even if he was an extraordinary soldier, he could well have been treated as a regular soldier, contrary to the King’s declaration in the beginning of the war. Could it be that this was the fate of the ancestor of the family?

It seems that the ancestor was in good health after returning home from war imprisonment. Estimated birth years of the children indicate that he may well have been married soon after having got free. The fact that he has not been mentioned in any of the common registries immediately after 1721 can be explained by assuming that he still had at least formally the status of soldier and thus did not belong to civilian population.

The ruotu recruiting system of the Ruokolahti parish seems to have been thoroughly reformed around 1731. If the ancestor was still a soldier, he became free to reach for a better life as a civilian and was no longer bound to living in Ruokolahti or the surroundings.

Mystery of the ancestress

Nobody by the name of Anna Toiviainen with a possible marital connection to the ancestor has been found in the population registries of Old Finland between 1722 and 1724.

Lauri Laurinpoika Toiviainen and the family have lived in the village of Immalanjärvi of the Ruokolahti parish during the 1680’s. He seems to have had origins in the Käringinniemi village. His descendants appear to have later lived in the village of Siitola.

The Toiviala farm in the village of Kärinki, Ruokolahti parish, was occupied by a Laitinen family from the parish of Jääski in 1710. According to the regional practice, they adopted Toiviainen as their family name. Anna Toiviainen may well have belonged to this family.

Out of different alternatives it seems most believable that the ancestor has been an extraordinary infantry soldier from the Tenkanen ruotu, located in the village of Immalanjärvi in the parish of Ruokolahti. He would have been imprisoned by the Russians either in 1704, at the age of 16, in the battle of Narva, or more probably in 1710, at the age of 22, in the battle of Vyborg. As stated before, the soldier’s surname was not necessarily his family name. Often a recruit got his surname after the ruotu farm.

In the 1712 baptising records of Puumala there is a marking of a boy-child Pekka and his father Pekka Mikonpoika Tenkanen. In the marital records of the Sulkava parish there is a marking from 1714 of Perttu Mikonpoika Tenkanen from Jääski. These men may have been brothers of the ancestor, who may have used the surname Ollikainen when living in the home village of Ollikkala, Jääski parish. The ancestor’s given name Jöran (Jyri or Yrjö) is mentioned in April 1688 in the baptising records of the Jääski parish for the son of Mikko Matinpoika Ollikainen. However, there are some problems in the interpretation of the markings in the burial records concerning Mikko Ollikainen’s sons.

Basic information on the ancestors and their children

In the following list the first generations of the family Tenkanen from the village of Sakkola are presented using mainly information found in the family books, appended with further information acquired specifically for this article by examining parish and taxation registries:

Spouse Anna Toiviainen. Housewife. Died April 30 1755 in Sakkola, Karhola.



Domicils of the family

The major part of the family were farmers in the time before the Karelian Isthmus was lost to the Soviet Union. The principal domicils were in Sakkola and Pyhäjärvi (Vyborg province) but several family members lived in diverse municipalities of the Vyborg province, some also elsewhere in Finland, as far as in Rovaniemi. After the Second World War many of those who lived in the Karelian Isthmus found eventually a new homestead in Huittinen, Hämeenkyrö, Lempäälä, Pirkkala, Ruovesi and Tampere. Today the most popular living places are Helsinki, Tampere and Huittinen, but the majority of the family live scattered around the Southern Finland.

Matti Tenkanen (b. 1882, d. 1955) and his wife Anna-Mari Meskanen (b. 1884, d. 1954) from Pyhäjärvi, emigrated, among some others, to the United States. Majority of their descendants still live there. Some family members also live in Sweden, Central Europe, and in Australia.

Notable persons in the family

Parish clerk (lukkari) of Sakkola Tuomas Tenkanen (b. 1773, d. 1837) and his wife Maria Kituinen (b. 1774, d. 1851) educated their eldest son Juho (b. 1796, d. 1854) and youngest son Niklas as priests; they changed their surnames for Tengén. From them descend all the family members with the surname Tengén. Some Tengéns have later changed their names back to Tenkanen.

Reverend (pastori) Johan (Juho) Tengén was wed to Ulrika Rosenström (b. 1800, d. 1875), who was a daughter of doctor Otto Rosenström from Helsinki. Johan worked first as a parish clerk and teacher and later became the curate/chaplain/assistant vicar (kappalainen) of Vehkalahti. Nicolaus (Niklas) Tengén was wed to Anna Blomberg (b. 1817 in Heinola, d. 1878) and was the vicar/parson/rector (kirkkoherra) of Kuolemajärvi and later of Koivisto. Albert Tengén (b. 1828, d. 1891) graduated as Master of Arts and also passed examination for priesthood. He became the vicar of Muolaa and a province/rural dean (lääninrovasti). Albert’s first wife was teacher Ida Tengström (b. 1832, d. 1866), and second Malvina Selin (b. 1845 d. 1904). His eldest son Johannes (b. 1855, d. 1920) worked as an assistant priest (apulaispappi) at least in Muolaa, Duderhof (Tuutari) and Hietamäki of Ingria, and in Petroskoi (Petrozavodsk), and as a curate/chaplain in Hamina.

Station master Georg Erik Paul (b. 1865, d. 1917), who had origins in the Swedish born Sursill family, was wed to Aina Malvina Tengén (b. 1873, d. 1926), and Selma Wilhelmina Johanna Bonsdorff (b. 1842, d. 1932) to judicial officer (kruununvouti) Berndt Fridolf Tengén (b. 1836, d. 1897).

Of persons acting in leading positions in governmental administration M.Sc. Arvo Tenkanen (b. 1898, d. 1966) should be mentioned. He was the last mayor of city of Käkisalmi (currently Priozersk), from 1943 to 1944, and later the mayor of city of Raahe. He was wed to pharmacist Johanna Pulkkinen (b. 1900, d. 1957).

Musical aptitude has been prominent in the Tenkanen–Tengén family and manifested not only as general interest in music, singing in a choir, playing a musical instrument as a hobby, but also as determination of professional career: several family members have acted and many act today as cantors, professional musicians, even as performing artists, composers and musical pedagogues. Of artists already passed away the opera singer and teacher Rosina Tengén (b. 1861, d. 1943) and organist and composer Aaron Tenkanen (b. 1880, d. 1963) can be mentioned. Musical pedagogue Arvi Karvonen (b. 1888, d. 1969), who did most of his day job in Sibelius Academy, his brother, musical captain and conductor Erkki (b. 1892, d. 1961), and father’s mother Anna Elisabeth, were Tenkanens of Sakkola. Of children of Anna and her husband Martti Karvanen one, Aleksander (b. 1862, d. 1916), became priest and acted as assistant priest and co-pastor [apulaispastori, kompastori] in the parish of Venjoki in Ingria.

The family has produced three “folk writers”: Aleksanteri Kuparinen (b. 1883, d. 1956), who wrote under the pen name Aleksanteri Aava, Emil Virtasalo (b. 1901, d. 1928) and Martti V. Tenkanen (b. 1911, d.1971). Teacher Helmi Tengén (b. 1875, d. 1971) became known amongst her contemporaries as a pioneer for womens liberation movement, cinematographer and photographer Reino Tenkanen (b. 1899, d. 1995) was famous for document filming. Reino’s father Eudoksius Tenkanen (b. 1873, d. 1955) was a professional photographer, and chief registry officer Aarne Tengén (b. 1886, d. 1977) a prolific amateur photographer; both of their works (about 100 from the former and well over 1,500 from the latter) are preserved in the Finnish Museum of Photography.

Professional diversity in the family has naturally increased remarkably during the last decades. Approximately 60 family members had graduated with a university degree by the year 1992, third of which women.

The most common surnames in the family

The family register published in 1992 family book covers the descendants of the ancestors and their spouses. In addition to the surnames Tenkanen and Tengén, the most common names are Paul, Naskali, Hämäläinen, Mäenpää and Virkki, which appear over 30 times, the surnames Kaasalainen, Koppanen, Pitkänen and Kuronen over 20 times. The total number of descendants in the 1992 family book was 1,560, with nearly 300 different surnames. Of these, about 480 had the surname Tenkanen, or one of its variants, and about 50 had the name Tengén.

  1. Inkerinmaan tilikirjat Kansallisarkistossa (KA): mikrofilmi FR 1612 sekä niteet VA 9653, 9679, 9688, 9702, 9708, 9718, 9726.
  2. Joensuun yliopisto, Karjalan tutkimuslaitos, 1987: Asiakirjoja Karjalan historiasta 1500- ja 1600-luvuilta.
  3. Eestimaa 1725–1726.a. Adramaa revisjon. Wirumaa. Allikpublikatsioon. Päätoim. H.Ligi. Julk. V. Naaber ym. Tallinn1988.
  4. Juva, Einar W ja Mikko: Suomen kansakunnan historia III, 1965, s. 175.
  5. Kankaanpää, Matti J. 2000: Suuri Pohjansota. Iso Viha ja Suomalaiset.
  6. Korhonen, Martti 1989: Hamina – Keskuspaikka.
  7. Luther, Georg 2000: Herdaminne för Ingermanland II. De finska och svenska församlingarna och deras prästerskap 1704–1940. Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland.
  8. Luukko, Armas 1967: Suomen historia VIII 1617–1727.
  9. Nissilä, Viljo 1976: Suomen Karjalan ortodoksinen nimistö. Teoksessa “Viipurin Suomalaisen Kirjallisuusseuran toimitteita 1”.
  10. RA, Rulla 137, Fond n:o 96, luettelo n:o 1, ed.hr. n:o 8, v. 1647. Neuvostoliitosta (TSGADA) hankittu mikrofilmi, Joensuun yliopisto, Historian laitos.
  11. Palli, Hildur 1995: Suomalaiset Virossa 1600- ja 1700-luvulla. Genos. Suomen Sukututkimusseura.
  12. Pulli, Hilja (toim.) 1983: Käkisalmen pohjoisen läänin henkikirja 1722 (KA 9804).
  13. Ranta, Raimo 1987: Viipurin komendanttikunta 1710–1721. Suomen Historiallinen Seura. Historiallisia Tutkimuksia 141.
  14. Saloheimo, Veijo 1991: Inkerikkoja, äyrämöisiä ja savakoita. Inkerinmaan tulomuuttujat ja sisäiset liikkujat vuoden 1643 henkikirjan mukaan. Joensuun Yliopisto, Karjalan tutkimuslaitos, moniste 10/1991.
  15. Saloheimo, Veijo (toim.) 1995: Käkisalmen läänistä ja Inkerinmaalta ruptuurin aikana 1656–58 paenneet ja poisviedyt. Joensuun Yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta.
  16. Saloheimo, Veijo (toim.) 1996: Pähkinälinnan läänin kymmenysluettelo vuonna 1623. Teoksessa Timo-Ilkka Antikainen ja Jukka Partanen (toim.): Liikkuvuutta suurvallan paineessa. Historian tutkimuksia, n:o 13. Joensuun yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta.
  17. Tenkanen, Arto (toim.): Tenkanen–Tengén suku 1688–1992. Tenkanen–Tengén Sukuseura, 1992.
  18. Tenkanen, Yrjö (toim.): Tenkanen–Tengén suku 1700–1970. Tenkanen–Tengén Sukuseura, 1970.
  19. Toivianen, Liisa 1962: Kirjaus nimikortistossa ja karttaliite, Kotimaisten kielten tutkimuskeskus.
  20. Toiviaiset-suku Karjalan meren rantamilta. Toiviaisten sukuseura, 1998.
  21. Tompuri, Annikki: Virolahden asukkaat maa- ja henkikirjojen mukaan 1543–1750, s. 272. Puhtaaksikirjoitettu vanhojen asiakirjojen kokoelma. Kouvolan maakunta-arkisto, Virolahden kunnankirjasto.
  22. Ylönen, Aulikki 1957; Jääsken kihlakunnan historia I.
  23. Alf Åberg & Göte Göransson 1976: Karoliner. Bokförlaget Trevi, Ruotsi.

More information on the ancestors of the Tenkanen family can be found on Aulis Tenkanen’s web site (mainly in Finnish).

Family history in fiction (in Finnish)
Contact information of the writers of the article:

Aulis Tenkanen
Email: aulis(at)tenkanen.net

Arto Tenkanen
Email: arto.tenkanen(at)lagarto.fi

Maintained by: webmaster@tenkaset.fi. Last updated on 31.05.2012.

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