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This paper investigates survivable lightpath provisioning and fast protection switching for generic mesh-based optical networks employing wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM). We propose subpath protection, which is a generalization of shared-path protection. The main ideas of subpath protection are: 1) to partition a large optical network into smaller domains and 2) to apply shared-path protection to the optical network such that an intradomain lightpath does not use resources of other domains and the primary/backup paths of an interdomain lightpath exit a domain (and enter another domain) through a common domain-border node. We mathematically formulate the routing and wavelength-assignment (RWA) problem under subpath protection for a given set of lightpath requests, prove that the problem is NP-complete, and develop a heuristic to find efficient solutions. Comparisons between subpath protection and shared-path protection on a nationwide network with dozens of wavelengths per fiber show that, for a modest sacrifice in resource utilization, subpath protection achieves improved survivability, much higher scalability, and significantly reduced fault-recovery time.