The End of the Ottoman Empire

Gerald Brown, Ed.D.


Great Controversy, pp. 334-335

"In the year 1840 another remarkable fulfillment of prophecy excited widespread interest. Two years before, Josiah Litch, one of the leading ministers preaching the second advent, published an exposition of Revelation 9, predicting the fall of the Ottoman Empire. According to his calculations, this power was to be overthrown "in A.D. 1840, sometime in the month of August;" and only a few days previous to its accomplishment he wrote: "Allowing the first period, 150 years, to have been exactly fulfilled before Deacozes ascended the throne by permission of the Turks, and that the 391 years, fifteen days, commenced at the close of the first period, it will end on the 11th of August, 1840, when the Ottoman power [335] in Constantinople may be expected to be broken. And this, I believe, will be found to be the case."--Josiah Litch, in Signs of the Times, and Expositor of Prophecy, Aug. 1, 1840. {GC 334.4} [Bold added.]

"At the very time specified, Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control of Christian nations. The event exactly fulfilled the prediction. (See Appendix.) When it became known, multitudes were convinced of the correctness of the principles of prophetic interpretation adopted by Miller and his associates, and a wonderful impetus was given to the advent movement. Men of learning and position united with Miller, both in preaching and in publishing his views, and from 1840 to 1844 the work rapidly extended." {GC 335.1} 1911 version.

The Record of History and Scripture

According to all public records, the Ottoman Empire came to an end on November 1, 1922 when the Ottoman Sultanate officially gave up all authority.1 The Turkish people had begun a revolution against the Sultanate in 1919, and the constitutional Republic of Turkey was fully functional by 1923.2 Josiah Litch's prediction was actually more than 81 years off the mark. What is the evidence regarding the fulfillment of this prediction and how do Ellen White's supporters explain this? More importantly, why would Ellen White endorse his prediction and keep both his failed prediction and her endorsement of it in her book in the face of such conclusive evidence that she was in error? What can we learn about the prophetic gift of Ellen White as we examine this evidence?

The fall of the Ottoman Empire is a secular event and its fall has been recorded in secular sources. If these events expressed in GC 334 - 335 were accurate, then we should find them recorded for posterity in secular history books. However, an exhaustive search in public records turns up no significance for the Ottoman Empire related to August 11, 1840. Even a Google search for "August 11, 1840" produces no such record of history. There are a variety of web sites that cite Josiah Litch's work related to this date, but none that cite any secular sources that supports the conclusion expressed in GC 334 - 335. The Encyclopedia of World History provides a concise list of significant events for this time period on pages 725-726. Following are the quotations in that book regarding the important events related to the political struggles of the Ottoman Empire in 1840-1841.

"July 15. TREATY OF LONDON: England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia agreed to force a settlement on Mohammed Ali and to support the sultan if necessary. Mohammed was to be offered Egypt as an hereditary possession and southern Syria for life, but was to give up Crete, northern Syria, Mecca, and Medina, and return the Turkish fleet. Failure to accept these terms in 10 days was to mean the withdrawal of the offer of southern Syria; failure to accept the revised offer in 10 days would mean the withdrawal of the whole offer and freedom for the sultan to make other arrangements. Mohammed rejected these terms, relying on France. The British induced the sultan to depose him. Panic in Paris when the treaty became known. Violent bellicosity of Thiers and of the press, danger of war on the Rhine.

"Sept. 9. The British admiral, Stopford, bombarded Beyrut, and Gen. Napier landed troops. Revolt against the Egyptians and Syria. Capture of Beyrut (Oct. 10); bombardment and capture of Acre (Nov. 3); Ibrahim forced to evacuate all Syria.

"Oct. 20. Resignation of Thiers, reflecting Louis Philippe's decision against war.

"Nov. 27. Convention of Alexandria, concluded by Napier: Mohammed Ali agreed to return the Turkish fleet and to abandon claims to Syria, in return for hereditary rule of Egypt. The sultan was finally induced to accept (firman of Feb. 13, 1841).

"1841, July 13. STRAITS CONVENTION, signed by the five great powers and marking France's return to the European concert: the Straits (Bosporus and Daardanelles) were to be closed to all foreign warships in time of peace.

"1844. ..."

Notice that the Treaty of London was signed on July 15, 1840, but not by Mohammed Ali, the Egyptian leader who was attempting to take away territory and authority from the Ottoman Sultanate. This treaty was a pledge by European powers to support the Ottoman Empire by attempting to force the Egyptian leader to accept conditions favorable to Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Rather than bring an end to the Ottoman Empire, this treaty supported and strengthened the Ottoman Empire at exactly the time Josiah Litch predicted its demise. The European powers began a war against the Egyptian forces of Ali in September 1841 as a result, and Josiah Litch's predicted end of the Ottoman Empire did not happen.

Following is the list of significant events from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, for this time frame.

# July 15 - Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Russia sign a London Treaty with the Sublime Porte, ruler of the Ottoman Empire.

# August 10 - Fortsas hoax - number of book collectors gather to Binche, Belgium to attend a non-existent book auction of the late "Count of Fortsas"

# September 10 - Ottoman and British troops bombard Beirut and land troops on the coast to pressure Egyptian Muhammad Ali to retreat from the country.

# September 16 - Joseph Strutt handed over the deeds and papers concerning the Arboretum, which was to become England's first public park.

Notice that July 15, 1840 is identified as the date the Sublime Porte, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, signed the London Treaty with Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Russia. There is no record of anything of any significance related to the Ottoman Empire happening on August 11, 1840.

Supporters of Ellen White point to the newspaper article in the London Morning Chronicle as a secular source supporting the notion that the Ottoman Empire came to an end in August 1840. Following is part of an article sympathetic to Ellen White's view entitled The Decline of Islamic Supremacy as Predicted in the Bible by Charles H. Clever taken from the web site He cites the London Morning Herald in his assessment of the significance of the aid given by the four nations, then at the end cites the source as from the London Morning Chronicle. I'm not able to tell if this is a reference to two different London newspapers or if the Morning Herald is an error.

It should be noticed that he confirms the history I've outlined here that, at the very time predicted for the end of the Ottoman Empire, the nations of Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia came to the support of the Ottoman Empire as a check against the advances of Mohadmet Ali of Egypt. From 1699 until 1909, the Ottoman Empire was referred to as The Sick Man of Europe because it was no longer able to exert the tremendous power as it had when at the height of its rulership. Clever's explanation regarding the four nations that came to the aid of the Ottoman Empire is that because the Ottoman Sultanate was weak, it came to an end when the four Christian nations propped it up, that they made it a puppet nation under their control, thus ending its sovereignty. However, this is not how the end of a government is determined and the Ottoman Empire did not come to an end in 1840 by any stretch of the imagination. It is common for governments to make strategic alliances to strengthen their political and military power, and the Ottoman Empire certainly did that in 1840 with the Treaty of London. When we see that the Ottoman Empire continued to make and break alliances with these and other nations continuously until the Sultanate was abolished on November 1, 1922 and the Caliph fled from Istanbul on a British war ship 17 days later, the only reasonable conclusion is that the Ottoman Empire did not end in 1840, but continued on for several more decades. The Republic of Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman Empire, was established as a western styled democracy in 1923. For sources that describe the end of the Ottoman Empire and the revolution that resulted in the Republic of Turkey in 1922, see the end notes.

The designation of the four European nations as "Christian" nations implies that religion played a significant part in the treaty that was signed by all these nations on July 15, 1840. However, the four European nations that came to the aid of the Ottoman Empire made no attempt to impose Christian values or practices on the people of Turkey, nor did the treaty require the Ottoman government to relax its restrictions against the teaching and preaching of Christianity and allow the establishment of Christian churches, schools, or medical facilities within its boundaries. The London Treaty signed on July 15, 1840 was a purely political agreement among these nations whose intent was to stabilize Europe against the threat of a renegade Egyptian aggressor.

Clever claims to present Josiah Litch's article predicting the fall of the Ottoman Empire, but it is not clear to me exactly where Litch's article ends and Clever's comments begin. It seems likely that what I've copied below is Clever's commentary, but I can't be certain.


The four angels were loosed for an hour, a day, a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men. This period amounts to three hundred and ninety-one years and fifteen days; during which Ottoman supremacy was to exist in Constantinople.

Commencing when the one hundred and fifty years ended, in 1449, the period would end August 11th, 1840. Judging from the manner of the commencement of the Ottoman supremacy, that it was by a voluntary acknowledgment on the part of the Greek emperor that he only reigned by permission of the Turkish Sultan, we should naturally conclude that the fall or departure of Ottoman independence would be brought about in the same way; that at the end of the specified period, the Sultan would voluntarily surrender his independence into the hands of the Christian powers, from whom he received it.

When the foregoing calculation was made, it was purely a matter of calculation on the prophetic periods of Scripture. Now, however, the time has passed by, and it is proper to inquire what the result has been - whether it has corresponded with the previous calculation.

1. Has the ottoman independence in Constantinople departed, and is it in christian hands? Let the following testimony answer the question. . .

The London Morning Herald, after the capture of St. Jean dAcre, speaking of the state of things in the Ottoman empire, says: "We have dissipated into thin air the prestige that lately invested as with a halo the name of Mehemet Ali. We have in all probability destroyed forever the power of that hitherto successful ruler. But have we done aught to restore strength to the Ottoman empire? we fear not. we fear that the sultan has been reduced to the rank of a puppet; and that the sources of the turkish empires strength are entirely destroyed.

"If the supremacy of the Sultan is hereafter to be maintained in Egypt, it must be maintained, we fear, by the unceasing intervention of England and Russia . . . ."

2. When did Mahommedan independence in Constantinople depart?

In order to answer this question understandingly, it will be necessary to review briefly the history of that power for a few years past.

For several years the Sultan has been embroiled in war with Mehemet [Mohammed] Ali, Pacha [sic] of Egypt. In 1838 there was a threatening of war between the Sultan and his Egyptian vassal. Mehemet Ali Pacha, in a note addressed to the foreign consuls, declared that in the future, he would pay no tribute in the Porte, and that he considered himself independent sovereign of Egypt, Arabia, and Syria. . . . In 1839, hostilities again commenced, and were prosecuted, until, in a general battle between the armies of the Sultan and Mehemet, the Sultans army was entirely cut up and destroyed, and his fleet taken by Mehemet and carried into Egypt . . . . This fleet Mehemet positively refused to give up and return to the Sultan. . . . In 1840, England, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, interposed, and determined on a settlement of the difficulty; for it was evident, if let alone, Mehemet would soon become master of the Sultans throne. . . .

The Sublime Porte, with a view of putting a stop to the effusion of Mussulman blood, and to the various evils which would arise from a renewal of hostilities, accepted the intervention of the great powers. . . .

Here was certainly a voluntary surrender. . . ,[part of the official document reads:] The powers have, together with the ottoman plenipotentiary, drawn up and signed a treaty, whereby the Sultan offers the Pacha, the hereditary government of Egypt, and all that part of Syria extending from the gulf of Suez to the lake of Tiberias, together with the province of Acre, for life; the Pacha, on his part, evacuating all other parts of the Sultans dominions now occupied by him, and returning the Ottoman fleet. A certain space of time has been granted him to accede to these terms; and, as the proposals of the Sultan and his allies, the four powers, do not admit of any change of qualification, if the Pacha refuse to accede to them, it is evident that the evil consequences to fall upon him will be attributable solely to his own fault.

"His Excellency, Rifat Bey, Musleshar for foreign affairs, has been despatched in a government steamer to Alexandria, to communicate the ultimatum to the Pacha." [Moniteur Ottoman, Aug. 22, 1840.]

The question now comes up, when was that document put officially under the control of mehemet ali?

"By the French steamer of the 24th, we have advices from Egypt to the 16th. . . . The Turkish government steamer, which had reached alexandria on the 11th, with the envoy rifat bey on board, had by his (the Pachas) orders been placed in quarantine, and she was not released from it till the 16th. . . however. . . on the very day [August 11, 1840] on which he had been admitted to pratique, the above named functionary had had an audience of the Pacha, and had communicated to him the command of the Sultan, with respect to the evacuation of the Syrian province, appointing another audience for the next day, when, in the presence of the consuls of the European powers, he would receive from him his definite answer, and inform him of the alternative of his refusing to obey; giving him the ten days which have been allotted him by the convention to decide on the course he should think fit to adopt. . . ." The London Morning Chronicle, Sept. 18, 1840.

According to previous calculation, therefore, ottoman supremacy did depart on the eleventh of August [August 11, 1840] into the hands of the great Christian powers of Europe.

Then the second wo is past, and the sixth trumpet has ceased its sounding; and the conclusion is now inevitable, because the word of God affirms the fact in so many words, "Behold, the third wo cometh quickly."


Notice the paragraph with the underline. The event described is not the end of a government, but, assuming no relevant names and data have been left out, is a diplomatic encounter between envoy Rifat Bey and the Pacha. The command of the sultan with respect to evacuating the Syrian province was communicated and was he promised another audience the next day at which the Pacha would give his answer. If Ali did not agree to the request of the Ottoman Sultan, the envoy would then deliver the ultimatum. Even the ultimatum given at the end of the article is not evidence that the Ottoman Empire came to an end at that time and secular history is clear that the Ottoman Empire continued on for more than eight additional decades. Moreover, if the date of the first meeting where the demand to withdraw from Syria was made was August 11, then the date of the meeting where the planned ultimatum was to be given by the Ottoman Sultan to the Egyptian Pacha was August 12, 1840. It is clear from this newspaper account that the Ottoman Sultanate was calling the shots and had not lost his sovereignty to the four allied European nations.

The claim is that the Ottoman Empire lost its sovereignty when it accepted the help of the four European nations. The implication is that the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire was dependent on it being a Muslim nation that could function independent of non-Muslim nations. But did the people of the Ottoman Empire give up Islam when it signed the Treaty of London in July 1840? Did the Ottoman Sultan surrender his authority to the four nations when he signed the Treaty? The fact is that the four European nations that came to assist the Ottoman Empire in 1840 did so for their own economic and military purposes. The events of 1840 relative to the Ottoman Empire have no religious significance.

What did the Ottoman Empire need the help of Europe for in the 1840's? If the Christian European nations helped the Muslim Ottoman Empire survive at the very time Josiah Litch predicted its end, how is that a fulfillment of his prophecy? Notice that the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and against Russia during WWI, thereby demonstrating that it had not lost its sovereignty when it accepted help from Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Russia in the 1840's. If secular history demonstrates an absence of significance for the date of August 11, 1840, it is simply a misrepresentation of truth -- a false witness, a lie -- to exonerate the prediction as having been fulfilled.

This appears to be one of those instances when religious ideology and denominational tradition trumps evidence and reason as found in scripture and history. In this instance, the Ellen White Estate and the SDA Church are no different than the Roman Catholic Church that boldly makes statements that support the traditions of the church but which are contrary to the evidence of scripture and history. In this context, the warning given by John in Revelation 22:15 that those left outside the holy city are those who make and love a lie should be taken most seriously. It is critically important to read real history outside of one's faith tradition.

What needs to be addressed by anyone interested in evidence as the basis for one's faith is this question: In the absence of any evidence in support of Josiah Litch's prediction and Ellen White's confirmation of his prediction, why would Ellen White allow those paragraphs to remain in her book? Why would the editors allow such statements to remain in her published works nearly 100 years later?

Following are five books that deal with the end of the Ottoman Empire. One is an official publication of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and one is published by the United States Library of Congress. Each confirms that the Ottoman Empire lasted as a sovereign government well beyond 1840 and at least until November 1, 1922.

A Traveler's History of Turkey. Richard Stoneman. Interlink Books, New York, 1998.

Chapter 10 is entitled "The Ottoman Empire II: The Sick Man of Europe, 1699-1909". While chapter 10 is on the weakness of the Ottoman Empire during its final 200+ years, it goes on to describe the final end of the empire in the revolution of 1919-1923.

Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey. Nicole and Hugh Pope. The Overlook Press, Woodstock and New York, 1997.

"The Turkish republic is still just young enough to have been spanned by one lifetime, and the sprightly Princess Humeyra has forgotten nothing of what her family went through. Her grandfather was Mehmet VI Vahdettin (1918-22), the thirty-sixth and last of the Ottoman sultans, the ruler who slunk out of the imperial capital on a British warship seventeen days after the sultanate was abolished on 1 November 1922." p. 22.

Turkey. G.L. Lewis. Frederick A Praeger, New York, New York, 1955.

Part I is entitled The Story of the Turkish Republic and takes 10 short chapters to discuss the decline and the end of the Ottoman Empire from 1683 to 1922.

Turkey: A country Study. Helen Chapin Metz, Ed. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1996.

The table of contents lists Chapter 1 as an overview of the historical setting and has a section on the Ottoman Empire that extends through World War I. The official position of the United States government is that the Ottoman Empire was a sovereign nation through World War I.

The Armenians in the Late Ottoman Period. Turkkaya Ataov, Ed. The Turkish Historical Society for the Council of Culture, Arts and Publications of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Ankara, 2002.

"If one seeks to characterize the six hundred year history of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), i.e., to define the Ottomans' Weltanschauung relative to their treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, the first word that comes to mind is toleration." p. 1.

While one might not agree with this official Turkish position on the question of Armenian genocide, the Turkish government considers the Ottoman Empire to have lasted until 1923 when the Republic was officially established.

It must be remembered that Josiah Litch's predictions regarding the fall of the Ottoman Empire are founded on his view of the sixth angel who blew the trumpet in Revelation 9:13-16. In the King James Version the passage states:

13And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. 15And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. 16And the number of the army of the horsemen [were] two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

Verse 15 states that the result of the sixth trumpet will be that the four angels will be released and lead an army of 200 million soldiers and kill one-third of men on the Earth. One must ask, did the events of the summer of 1840 result in the killing of one-third of the men on the Earth? Was there a huge army formed with 200 million soldiers? Has there ever been an army with 200 million soldiers? The obvious answer is negative. According to the article in the London Morning Chronicle, no significant deaths were reported for August 1840. Even the military battles launched in September 1840 did not produce the number of deaths that would approach the fulfillment of the sixth trumpet. Since this requirement was not fulfilled, it is safe to conclude that the sixth trumpet of Revelation 9:15 was not sounded at that time and Josiah Litch's prediction was not a fulfillment of the sixth trumpet.

In the face of this secular and biblical evidence that the Ottoman Empire did not fall in 1840, but continued to be a sovereign nation through most of 1922, and that the sixth trumpet was not sounded in 1840, some who maintain Ellen White's accuracy say that spiritual things must be spiritually discerned and thereby imply that spiritual things can be understood contrary to secular, public evidence and the biblical record. Does God instruct His followers to base their beliefs on real evidence or are believers free to base their beliefs on cherished concepts that are contradicted by public evidence and the Bible? Is it acceptable in God's eyes for a church organization to promote an explanation that is contrary to all the evidence for the purpose of protecting one of its most revered leaders?

When God told the Israelites in Isaiah 1:18 to "Come now, let us reason together..." the Hebrew word for reason together ( = yâkach) means to examine the evidence and render a judgment based on that evidence. In this instance, all the evidence points to the fact that the Ottoman Empire continued to operate as a sovereign nation until the 1920's. The evidence in support of this is world wide in that the Ottoman Empire had treaties and political and economic ties with various nations for 81 years (1840-1921) after Ellen White made her unfortunate confirmation of Josiah Litch's failed prediction. To justify a position contrary to this one would need to find evidence that overturns all known established history regarding the interplay of the European nations and the Ottoman Empire for those 81 years. All the treaties between and among these nations would need to be expunged from existence and the entire record of diplomatic, economic, and military activity in the name of the Ottoman Empire would need to be expunged and replaced with new evidence that shows a new government in place of the Ottoman Empire in 1840. Where can one possibly go to find such evidence? It is long past the time to admit that Ellen White was human and made mistakes. Her confirmation of Josiah Litch's failed prediction is as bogus as a $3.50 bill.

All of this goes to the integrity and relevance of the teaching of those who view scripture through the aid of Ellen White's writings. If what we teach is contrary to evidence and scripture, we cannot hope to be teaching God's truth. There is no justification in, nor is there any chance of, expunging the public record of the final 81 years of the Ottoman Empire to make it fit these two paragraphs in her book. To do so would require that the public records of every nation on Earth must be altered to accommodate this one mistake of Josiah Litch and Ellen White. To accomplish this would require the fabrication of a whole host of additional false bits of mis-information that would hopelessly unravel under examination. Far better to admit to the facts of this one mistake than to perpetrate an entire web of lies that could have no greater stability than a house of cards.

Faced with the embarrassment of an unfulfilled prediction, Josiah Litch at first attempted to spin the events as the fulfillment of Revelation 9, but later abandoned his failed teaching. He even abandoned the day for a year principle as having any general application to prophecy.3

Rather than cherish the character of honesty, some are ready to compromise their honesty to maintain the appearance of infallibility for Ellen White even though she clearly stated she was not infallible.4 No wonder the church of Laodicea is repulsive to the Lord and will be spewed out of His mouth.

The fact that the records of history and scripture do not support the predictions of Josiah Litch or the confirmation of Ellen White certainly severely damages their credibility with respect to her writings being error free as the result of inspiration by the Holy Spirit. Did the Holy Spirit not know the real history of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the events of August 1840 and November 1922? Has this error been preserved in her writings as evidence that she was human and that her writings are not on the same level as scripture?

Perhaps the most important thing to learn through a review of this historical problem is that Ellen White's prophetic gift was not supernatural, that her words were not divine counsel, that her words expressed the vision and hopes of a woman whose life was dedicated to the Lord as she understood His will for her life, but who, like all the rest of us, was limited by her human nature and made mistakes. Contrary to her most ardent sup-

porters who hold her writings to be inerrant and claim they should be considered as reliable and sacred as scripture, her writings are not inerrant and cannot rise to the level of scripture without attributing mistakes like this to the Holy Spirit who is the source of inspiration. As with every other person who claims to have a message of truth, her message must be compared with history and scripture for accuracy and correct representation. In this instance, her writing clearly falls far short.


1. option=com_content&tasl=view&id=1038&Itemid=46

2. The Road to the Republic: Turkish War of Independence and Reform

See"league/1922.htm for a listing of the important political dates of 1922 and notice that November 1, 1922 is the date Sultanate was abolished. You'll have to scroll down quite a ways to get to November 1, 1922.

3. See Prophetic Significance of Eastern and European Movements, pp. 15-16. Also see Josiah Litch, A Complete Harmony of Daniel and the Apocalypse, p. 170.

4.      "I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I wish self to be crucified. I do not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Saviour more closely, I should not have to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image." {DG 272.6} {20MR 23.3} {2BIO 444.6} {3BIO 34.5} [Bold added.]

"No Claim to Infallibility

"We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed."--The Review and Herald, July 26, 1892. {1SM 37.3} [Bold added.]

"In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and in Him is no variableness, or shadow of turning."--Letter 10, 1895. {1SM 37.4} [Bold added.]

"God help you, my dear nephew, to make deep and thorough work, that you may have a living connection with God, and then you can have a safe connection with men who are only fallible like yourself. In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, And in him is no variableness, or shadow of turning." {Miscellaneous Collections; 1888 - The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (1987); Chap. 165 - To F. E. Belden; 1888 1393.2} [Bold added.]


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