The paper preliminarily reviews the history of the Russian word rossiyane (that has no exact translation into English) concerning mainly the 20th c., although several curious cases of its usage beginning from 17th c. are included as well. Before the Russian Revolution rossiyane was synonymous with the ethnonym russkiye ‘ethnic Russians; East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia’, but expressive and marked as bookish and poetical form. Its new meaning ‘citizens or inhabitants of the Russian Federation’ appeared for the first time in the political essays of the Russian émigré authors from the late 1920s, and then it spread in some émigré political movements, specifically among the Russian fascists in Harbin. In the homeland such semantic change took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the words rossiyane and rossiyskiy ‘of or pertaining to the Russian Federation’ began to replace the ethnonym russkiye and the adjective russkiy. The paper also contains statistical diagrams composed on the basis of the Russian National Corpus data.