Joined the merchant fleet. During World War I, with the Russian Navy in the Black Sea, involved in revolutionary propaganda. During the Civil War, head of a Red detachment fighting Ukrainian nationalists in Odessa, and the Germans and White Cossacks on the Taman Peninsula.
Elected commander of the Red Taman Army, led the legendary march of this army along the Black Sea, 1918. Shot by order of the commander of the Red Army of the North Caucasus, I. Sorokin, who was himself later shot as a traitor to the Red cause.