In the last 30 years, major changes have taken place in the public sector worldwide under the rubric of New Public Management [NPM]. The education sector is perhaps one of the key areas drawing an intense interest and discussion in the wake of NPM. The Russian State seems to be no longer an exception to this global trend. In line with this, the Russian education sector was declared as a large-scale top priority national project in the late summer of 2005, which was aimed to help raise the living standards of each Russian citizen. This empirical paper seeks to reveal the major institutional and legal changes taking place in Russian higher education over time. This insight is vital as it points to the contexts in which Russian public universities operate. To make the acquaintance of a system of Russian higher education, this research sketches its evolution. It commences from the Soviet era to the present time, highlighting the most significant government initiatives.