Fast growth of urban population during the last century led to massive abandonment of arable lands near big cities due to the outflow of rural population. After withdrawal, former arable lands undergo a process of self-restoration, and there are some periods of natural succession of vegetation and soils. This study was aimed to estimate the changes in plant biodiversity and organic carbon content in soils during postagrogenic evolution of former arable lands in various bioclimatic zones of the European part of Russia. The chronosequence studies were carried out in southern taiga (Albeluvisols, Kostroma region), zone of deciduous forest (Phaeozems, Moscow region), and steppe zone (Chernozems, Rostov region). Each chronosequence included arable, abandoned lands of different ages, and native (forest or steppe) cenosis. The content of organic carbon (Corg) and total nitrogen (Norg) was determined in mixed soil samples (0–20 cm layer). Total species richness (TSR) was used to quantify the biodiversity of plant communities. It was shown that the withdrawal of soils from agricultural use resulted in some alterations in species composition, increase of biodiversity, and a gradual recovery of native vegetation attributed to the bioclimatic zone. The highest values of TSR were observed in abandoned lands of 13, 15, and 30-yr old under grasslands. A notable increase in Corg content in the upper part of former arable layer was observed during the postagrogenic evolution for all bioclimatic regions. However, the tendency was more pronounced for postagrogenic soils in northern bioclimatic zones in comparison to southern ones: Albeluvisols > Phaeozems > Chernozems. Thus, Corg content in Albeluvisols under forest was 4.7 times higher than in arable soil. The same ratio (Corg in native cenosis: Corg in arable) for Phaeozems and Chernozems comprised 2.3 and 1.4, respectively. © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019.