He was educated at the Saint Petersburg Forestry Institute and the Kazan University. He served in the Russian military during the Russo-Japanese War, then spent some time in jail for revolutionary political activities. He then served with the Russian military during World War I.
In 1921 he led the first Soviet research expedition to investigate the Tunguska event, the largest Impact event in recorded history, which had occurred on June 30, 1908. He made a reconnaissance trip to the region, and interviewed local witnesses. He circled the region where the trees had been felled and became convinced that they were all turned with their roots to the center. However he did not find any meteorite fragments from the impact.