A review of fundamental works by Shubin and Vonsovsky on the formulation of the polar and s–d(f) exchange models is given. Their ideas are compared with subsequent developments in the theory of magnetism in d- and f-metals and their compounds. Modern approaches including various slave-boson and slave-fermion representations, formation of exotic quasiparticles etc. are discussed. Internal connections between different many-electron models (the Heisenberg, Hubbard, t–J, Anderson Hamiltonians) are presented. Description of anomalous rare-earth and actinide compounds (Kondo lattices, systems with heavy fermions and non-Fermi-liquid behavior) within the framework of the s–d(f) exchange model and related models is considered.