The Material Question

‘Little by little I began to prepare everything required for the accomplishment of my project. Among other things, I purchased an estate, ordered from different European countries whatever could not be obtained in Russia, and bought instruments and other necessary equipment. I even began to arrange for the publication of my own newspaper.

‘In the thick of this work of organization, the war broke out, and I had to suspend everything, though in the hope of resuming as soon as the political situation became more settled.

‘By this time, half the capital I had collected had already been spent on the preparatory organization.
‘The war continued to gain ground, and, as hope of an early peace grew fainter and fainter, I was compelled to leave Moscow and go to the Caucasus to await the end of hostilities.

‘In spite of the fact that political events filled everyone’s mind, interest in my work continued to grow in certain circles of society. People really interested in my ideas began to collect at Essentuki, where I was then settled; they came not only from the immediate neighbourhood, but from St. Petersburg and Moscow, and, little by little, circumstances obliged me to form an organization there without waiting for the return to Moscow.

‘But here too, events soon took such a turn that it became a problem not only to work but even to survive, no one ever knowing what the morrow would bring.

‘The district of the Mineral Waters, where we were living, became a centre of civil war, and we found ourselves literally between two fires.

‘Towns passed from hand to hand: one day to the Bolsheviks, the next day to the Cossacks, and the day after to the White Army or to some newly formed party.

‘Sometimes on getting up in the morning we would not know under which government we were that day and only on going out into the street would discover what politics had to be professed.

‘For me personally, of all that I went through in Russia, this was the period of most intense nervous strain.

‘All the time I not only had to think and worry about obtaining the most immediate necessities of life, which had become almost unprocurable, but I was also constantly concerned about the lives of the hundred or so people who were in my care.

‘What made me most anxious was the situation of about twenty of my pupils—as they began to call themselves—who were of military age. Young and even middle-aged men were being conscripted every day—one day by the Bolsheviks, the next day by the “Whites”, the day after by some other faction.