The groups of processes or working modes of a Linux which are started by ["init"] are controlled by the runlevel. The runlevel is a digit from 0 to 6 or the letter S. Runlevels 0, 6 and S are reserved for shutdown, reboot and single user mode. Runlevel 1 is also single user mode.

I.e. Debian has seven runlevels (0-6). 0 = a halted system; 1 = a single-user, stand-alone system; 2-5 = various multi- user modes; and 6 = system reboot. Each runlevel designates a different system configuration and allows access to different processes.

Your system starts with the runlevel specified in /etc/inittab

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