Sokolov's dwarf hamster (Cricetulus sokolovi) is the least studied representative of the striped hamsters (Cricetulus barabensis species group), the taxonomy of which remains controversial. The species was described based on chromosome morphology, but neither the details of the karyotype nor the phylogenetic relationships with other Cricetulus are known. In the present study, the karyotype of C. sokolovi was examined using cross-species chromosome painting. Molecular and cytogenetic data were employed to determine the phylogenetic position of Sokolov's hamster and to analyze the potential pathways of chromosome evolution in Cricetulus. Both the chromosome and molecular data support the species status of Sokolov's hamster. Phylogenetic analysis of the CYTB data placed C. sokolovi as sister to all other striped hamsters (sequence divergence of 8.1%). FISH data revealed that the karyotype of C. sokolovi is highly rearranged, with the most parsimonious scenario of its origin implying at least 4 robertsonian events and a centromere shift. Comparative cytogenetic data on Cricetinae suggest that their evolutionary history includes both periods of chromosomal conservatism and episodes of rapid chromosomal change.