The article concerns the ethnic structure of the Russian Federation and the problems of national identity in the multiethnic state. A few distinct regions were identified based on ethnic, linguistic and religious components. They show that despite the Russian numerical superiority and the dominant role of Russian language and Russian culture, the Federation is a diverse state. Ethnocultural mosaics are situated throughout the state and it because of that any aspiration for larger autonomy or local separatism could destroy the Federation from the inside. A source for such aspirations may result from, for example, strong ethnic identity, which is especially important because of its naturalness, resulting from life and acting within constituent entities that were formed on the ethnic basis. The strength of ethnic identity resides in its stability, which played a significant role during the transformation period. On the other hand, the strong ethnic component in Russia is opposed to a weak civil identity, whose character is more formal. This second approach may be undermined by the results of public opinion polls. They show quite a strong and parallel identity with three groups: citizens at large, members of the same ethnic group and local community. In fact, it is difficult to precisely describe the dominant identity of the Russians. It is based on a peculiar dualism – ethnicity and citizenship.