In the years between the Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet empire, its film and photo images were highly controlled. Even the Russian people themselves had little idea what was held in the infamous Russian archives.

The Archive Media Project (AMP), RAO's parent, was originally formed as a Russian-American partnership through a USAID Internews grant that opened the world to the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk. Out of this partnership grew the idea for an online gateway providing access to historic images via the Internet: Russian Archives Online.

The Krasnogorsk Archive film catalogue contains over 45,000 film descriptions in a Russian language searchable database. In addition, over 4,000 of have been translated into English. A sample photo catalogue of Krasnogorsk’s over 1,000,000 images is also posted on the RAO Website. This provides a glimpse of the archive's holdings, and shows a hint of the potential that such online archives can achieve.

In 1998 the Russian partners of AMP were awarded a Russian Digital Library Program grant to continue the development of a digital library and corresponding cataloguing software programs. Currently, Abamedia and RAO are planning to expand the Web site’s offerings by selectively digitizing some of the Russian archive’s most compelling films and photo images for educational purposes.