The article examines the issue of differences in the dividend policy of public and private companies in Russia. State corporations form more than 40% of revenues of the largest Russian companies, at the same time the role of ownership structure in determining dividend policy is not uniquely determined in the literature. Comparative analysis of Russian companies shows that nonlinear dependence is possible. We use panel data from nonfinancial companies listed in Moscow stock exchange from 2008 to 2016, who paid dividends during this period, 150 companies in total. Three specifications are considered: the one with dividend payout ratio as a dependent variable, the one with a share of dividends in free cash flow, and the one with nonlinear dependence of dividend payout ratio and share of state participation. Control variables are based on the life-cycle theory. Linear form does not show statistically significant relationship between the dividend payments and the shares of state participation. We find that the relationship is nonlinear and has the upside down U shape. For a low level of state participation, the relationship is positive, for a high level it is negative. This result is in line with the agency theory: a positive link indicates the use of dividends to resolve an agency conflict; a negative link implies concentration of money in the hands of managers in the absence of the power of minority shareholders. The future research is associated with adding institutional constraints to the analysis and using the framework of sustainable development of the firm.