Pavel Dybenko was born in Lyudkovo village, Novozybkov uyezd, Chernigov guberniya, Imperial Russia (now Novozybkov, Bryansk Oblast, Russia) in a Ukrainian peasant family. In 1907 he started working in the local Treasury department, but was fired as "untrustworthy" due to his political activities. From 1907 onward, Dybenko became active in a Bolshevik group, distributing revolutionary literature throughout the Novozbykov region - progressive publications such as the People’s Gazette and the Proletariat which spoke to anti-Tsar sympathies.
He moved to Riga and worked as a port labourer. He tried to avoid enlisting, but was arrested and forcibly enlisted.
In November 1911, he joined the Baltic Fleet. The first six months he served on the ship "Dvina".
In 1912 he joined the Bolshevik Party. In 1915, he participated in the mutiny on board of the battleship Emperor Paul I. He was imprisoned for six months and sent as an infantry soldier to the German front. There he went on with anti-war propaganda, and was again imprisoned for 6 months.