The Material Question

‘Here, among the inhabitants of Tiflis, many people had been deeply affected by the change in their conditions of life and felt the need to turn towards other values. As a consequence, within a week after the opening of my Institute, all the special classes which had been started in these temporary premises were filled up, and there were also waiting­-lists of two or three times as many people for the classes I expected to start as soon as we had a larger building.

‘In these temporary premises which were unsuitable in every respect, and under exceedingly trying conditions, “work on oneself” began to come to life. Studies were carried on for several months by dividing the pupils into separate groups and by arranging working hours in the morning, afternoon and evening, and even late at night.

‘But the government kept putting off the question of the promised building week after week, and it became more and more impossible to continue the work in our inadequate premises. And when, owing to the Bolsheviks’ advance into Georgia, all the harassing difficulties of daily living increased and the Georgian government itself was shaken, I finally gave up wasting my time and energy in the struggle with the conditions round me. I decided not only to liquidate everything in Tiflis, but even to break with everything that up till then had tied me to Russia, and to emigrate beyond its borders and found my Institute in some other country.

‘I sold for a mere song everything acquired for the Institute in Tiflis and, providing as well as possible for those of us who remained behind, I left under great difficulties for Constantinople, taking with me thirty people.

‘At the time of my departure from Tiflis, the sale of carpets had brought me a considerable sum of money. I calculated that, even after providing for the people remaining behind and allowing for the expenses of the journey, there would still be enough on arriving in Constantinople to last for a fairly long period.

‘Alas, we had counted without the Georgians! Thanks to them we were not able to make use of this money which had been earned, literally, by the sweat of our brows.

‘This happened because the local currency at that time had no value outside the country and could not be exchanged anywhere, so those who went abroad took with them, instead of currency, diamonds or rugs. I likewise decided to take, instead of money, several precious stones and twenty rare carpets and, having fulfilled all the official requirements for their export, I distributed them among my companions.