Joined the Social Democratic Party in 1901. At the age of 16 married the son of a factory owner. Soon left him and joined the Bolshevik, Piatakov.
Active in Kiev. First member and secretary of the Kiev Committee of the RSDRP, 1909-1910. Arrested and exiled to Siberia in 1913. Fled with Piatakov abroad through Vladivostok.
Lived in Switzerland, later in Scandinavia. After the February Revolution 1917, tried to organize the Bolshevik forces in the Ukraine against the Ukrainian Rada (Nationalist Government). Became People’s Commissar of the Interior (chief of the secret police) in the first communist Ukrainian government in Khar’kov in 1918.
During the Civil War, took part in several terror missions (Penza, Astrakhan, Gomel). Commissar of the Caspian-Caucasian front. Accused of Trotskyism in 1923, arrested and committed suicide in a Moscow prison two years later.