The tendency of the entropy to a maximum as an isolated system is relaxed to the equilibrium (the second law of thermodynamics) has been known since the mid-19th century. However, independent theoretical and applied studies, which suggested the maximization of the entropy production during nonequilibrium processes (the so-called maximum entropy production principle, MEPP), appeared in the 20th century. Publications on this topic were fragmented and different research teams, which were concerned with this principle, were unaware of studies performed by other scientists. As a result, the recognition and the use of MEPP by a wider circle of researchers were considerably delayed. The objectives of the present review consist in summation and analysis of studies dealing with MEPP. The first part of the review is concerned with the thermodynamic and statistical basis of the principle (including the relationship of MEPP with the second law of thermodynamics and Prigogine's principle). Various existing applications of the principle to analysis of nonequilibrium systems will be discussed in the second part.