Involved in revolutionary activity. Lived abroad (Geneva), 1908-1917. After the October Revolution, appointed commissar of the publishing department of the Ministry of Education (Narkompros), 1917-1919.
First Soviet editions of Russian classics published under his supervision. Chairman of Proletcult, 1918-1920. Head of Glavlit (censorship commission), 1921-1930.
One of the editors of the first edition of the Bolshaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia and editor of Literaturnaia Entsiklopediia, 1934-1939.