The Material Question

‘The next morning I marshalled all my resources and, with the help of several persons who were more or less half-consciously or unconsciously devoted to me, and who had some kind of relationship with the various power­ possessors of that moment, I set about trying to procure official permission for organizing a scientific expedition into the Caucasus Mountains.

‘Having succeeded in getting this permission, I obtained by all sorts of devices everything necessary for a journey of this kind. I then chose a number of my pupils, chiefly those for whom it was most dangerous to stay in the district of the Mineral Waters. After I had provided for the others remaining behind, we set off in two parties, which were to meet at an agreed place.

‘The first party of this scientific expedition, which started from the town of Piatigorsk, consisted of twelve persons, and the second, from the town of Essentuki, of twenty-one—of whom I was one.
‘Officially, these two groups were considered quite independent of each other and as having nothing in common.

‘Without really knowing the conditions then prevailing in this country, one must have a particularly fertile imagination to form even a rough idea of what it meant to organize a scientific expedition, moreover an official one, at such a time.

‘From Essentuki I intended to go first through inhabited districts to Mount Indur, situated not far from Tuapse, and from there to begin searching in a south­easterly direction, along a line from twenty-five to sixty miles distant from the shores of the Black Sea. For the first part of the journey I managed, after great difficulties, to procure from the Bolshevik Government, which was then in power, two railway wagons, and this I did at a time when, owing to the constant movement of troops, it was almost unthinkable even for one man without luggage to travel by rail.

‘Having squeezed into these wagons all twenty-one persons, two horses, two mules and three two-wheeled carts, not to mention the great quantity of equipment bought for the expedition, such as tents, provisions, and various instruments and weapons, we started off.

‘We travelled this way as far as Maikop. But since almost the whole road­bed of the railway beyond this town had been destroyed the previous day by a newly formed group of rebels who called themselves by some such title as the Greens, our expedition was compelled to continue further on foot and by cart, and not in the direction of Tuapse, as I had originally intended, but towards what is known as the White River Pass.