The association between demographic history, genealogy and geographical distribution of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b haplotypes was studied in the wood lemming (Myopus schisticolor), a species that is closely associated with the boreal forest of the Eurasian taiga zone from Scandinavia to the Pacific coast. Except for a major phylogeographic discontinuity (0.9% nucleotide divergence) in southeastern Siberia, only shallow regional genetic structure was detected across northern Eurasia. Genetic signs of demographic expansions imply that successive range contractions and expansions on different spatial scales represented the primary historical events that shaped geographical patterns of genetic variation. Comparison of phylogeographic structure across a taxonomically diverse array of other species that are ecologically associated with the taiga forest revealed similar patterns and identified two general aspects. First, the major south–north phylogeographic discontinuity observed in five out of six species studied in southeastern Siberia and the Far East implies vicariant separation in two different refugial areas. The limited distribution range of the southeastern lineages provides no evidence of the importance of the putative southeastern refugial area for postglacial colonization of northern Eurasia by boreal forest species. Second, the lack of phylogeographic structure associated with significant reciprocal monophyly and genetic signatures of demographic expansion in all nine boreal forest animal species studied to date across most of northern Eurasia imply contraction of each species to a single refugial area during the late Pleistocene followed by range expansion on a continental scale. Similar phylogeographic patterns observed in this taxonomically diverse set of organisms with different life histories and dispersal potentials reflect the historical dynamics of their shared environment, the taiga forest in northern Eurasia.