Mark Natanson, the son of a Jewish merchant, was born in Vilna, Russia, in 1850. He became a medical student in St. Petersburg but soon became involved in the reform movement. In 1869 he was arrested during a protest demonstration but was released after a brief imprisonment.
Arrested again in 1870 and 1871, he was exiled to Siberia. He escaped and returned to St. Petersburg where he was instrumental in establishing the secret society, Land and Liberty, in 1876. The group demanded that the Russian Empire should be dissolved. It also believed that two thirds of the land should be transferred to the peasants where it would be organized in self-governing communes. It remained a small group and at its peak only had around 200 members.
Natanson was arrested in 1877 and was once again exiled to Siberia. This time he remained in captivity until 1890. On his release he remained active in revolutionary politics and in 1894 was arrested and sent to Siberia where he was held until 1903.
On his release he left Russia and lived in Europe. He continued be active in politics and was a member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionaries.
Natanson returned to Russia after the February Revolution. He was now a member of the Left SRs and attempted to convince Vladimir Lenin not to ban opposition political parties. When he failed he left Russia and went to live in Switzerland. Mark Natanson died in 1919.