This article analyses research on social inequality and access to higher education in Russia. It argues that the myth about equality of life chances, as with certain other myths, was an important part of the Soviet ideology. However, children from privileged groups traditionally received the education and professional training which were most advantageous for their subsequent lives and careers. Recent research indicates that conditions in post-Soviet Russia are not eliminating social differentiation. This is clearly seen in access to higher education. It is shown that the inequality is noticeable in secondary education and is aggravated during the transition to higher education and vocational training (universities, colleges, vocational schools). In order to explain the genesis of such inequality, the article considers research focusing on the situation at secondary school. The dynamics must be analysed over a long period, since the problems that post-Soviet youth face today have roots in the Soviet past. Hence, the article considers the results of studies conducted between the 1960s and today.