The evolution characteristics of the zapovednik system in Russia are considered. The national zapovednik management activities emerged well before 1917. Its further strengthening was influenced by the Western European ideas of nature conservation, and by experience of the establishment of North American national nature marks accumulated since the last quarter of the 19th century. In spite of this influence, the network of zapovedniks of the USSR acquired its uniqueness and became one of the country’s most important achievements in the 20th century. The idea of conserving nature is deeply rooted in the history of Russia and was raised in the national literature long before its practical implementation. Three main interpretations in the theory and practice of zapovednik management of Russia have hitherto been used: utilitarian-pragmatic, ecocentric, and scientific-ecological. The idea of classical zapovedniks is based on the scientific-ecological approach substantiated in publications of V. V. Dokuchaev, G. A. Kozhevnikov, F. R. Shtilmark, and others. It is suggested that a specialized state body be re-established to ensure absolute conservation of preservation territories. The existing geographical network of zapovedniks of Russia needs further development in order to achieve optimal representativeness. An important benchmark in its optimization is provided by the project prepared in 1917 by V. P. Semenov-Tyan-Shanskii.Keywords: zapovednik, pristine nature, laboratory of nature, national parks, landscape diversity.