In 1891, entered the medical faculty of Moscow University. Joined the Bolshevik Party in 1893. Involved in revolutionary activity, arrested and exiled.
Doctor in Orel and Saratov Gouvts. From 1904, involved in party work in Nizhnii Novgorod. Participant in the 1905 Revolution.
Arrested at the Sormovo factory. Emigrated to Geneva in 1906, where he met Lenin. Delegate at the Stuttgart Congress of the 2nd International, 1907, as the Geneva party representative.
In 1908, moved to Paris. Secretary of the Foreign Bureau of the SDs until 1910. In 1911, lectured at the party school at Lonjumeau.
In 1912, took part in the 6th Prague All-Russia Conference of the RSDRP. In 1913, in Serbia and Bulgaria. Was interned there during World War I. In Sep. 1917, returned to Moscow.
Delegate at the 6th Congress of the RSDRP. Active participant in the October coup, 1917. From July 1918-1930, 1st Narkom (Minister) of Health of the USSR. Combined administrative duties with lecturing at Moscow University. From 1930-1936, member of the Presidium.
From 1945-1949, director of the Institute of School Hygiene. One of the founders of the first Medical Library, 1918, and the House of Scientists, 1922. From 1927-1936, editor-in-chief of the Soviet Great Medical Encyclopaedia.
A clinic in Moscow bears his name.