Nikolai Sukhanov was born in Moscow in 1882. At high school he joined a socialist group and later joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party. He was arrested in 1904 after being caught in possession of illegal literature. This resulted in a one-year spell in the Taganka Prison.
Sukhanov participated in the 1905 Revolution and published a series of academic books on agricultural economics. He also contributed to Russkoe Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth).
In 1910 he was arrested again and exiled to Archangel. Released in 1913 he returned to St. Petersburg and became editor of the radical journal Sovremennik (Contemporary) and Letopis (Chronicle).
During the February Revolution Sukhanov became a member of the Petrograd Soviet and helped to negotiate the formation of the Provisional Government. An advocate of peace negotiations, Sukhanov opposed the aggressive war policies of Alexander Kerensky. After the October Revolution Sukhanov became a strong critic of the Bolshevik government, especially its decision to ban political parties and its censorship of the press.
Sukhanov published his Russian Revolution in 1922. He worked at the Agrarian Institute of the Communist Academy until his dismissal in 1930. The following year he was arrested and charged and convicted of being a member of a "counter-revolutionary organization of the Menshevik-Interventionists.
Sukhanov was shot on the orders of Joseph Stalin on 27th August, 1939.