N.I. Vavilov was among the first scientists who recognized the high potential value of plant genetic resources (PGR) for humankind. In addition to his fundamental work on the centers of crop origin, he emphasized the importance of collection and ex situ conservation of cultivated plants and their wild relatives, to make them available for breeding programs and for future generations. Vavilov's ideas formed a solid scientific basis for the long-term efforts on securing PGR in ex situ genebanks, both internationally and in Russia. The collection of seeds and living plants at the N.I. Vavilov All Russian Institute of Plant Genetic Resources (VIR) is one of the oldest in the world. The size of the collection increased from 301 accessions in 1901 to over 330,000 accessions in 2017, now representing 64 botanical families, 376 genera, and 2169 species. Acquisition was mainly focused on crops that are suitable for cultivation in Russia such as potatoes, barley, wheat, sorghum, beans, vegetables, forage species, and many others. For over a century, VIR has been providing the materials for breeding programs and research, which resulted in developing new cultivars with unique characteristics such as high yield combined with deceased resistance, improved storability, cold and drought tolerance, or ability to grow on deserts and polluted lands. The main field collection near St. Petersburg and 11 main branches across the country covering a wide spectrum of climatic conditions combined with modern seed storage, in vitro and cryobank facilities, and molecular laboratories form a solid platform for breeding, regeneration, and evaluation of accessions in the collection. This article gives a brief overview of VIR as the leading genebank and breeding center in Russia, its main activities in conservation and utilization of PGR for national food security and its role in developing national policies in this area.