Russian Archives Online (RAO) is an online collection of Russian and Soviet-related archives and other sources of film footage, photographs, and fine art featuring support materials and robust archival search engine.
For many decades post the Russian Revolution, the film and photo images of Soviet life released to the world, and even to the Russian people, were carefully controlled and severely limited.
In 1995, an Abamedia subsidiary, Archive Media Project (AMP), was formed as a Russian-American partnership to open to the world the treasure trove of images within the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk. This partnership soon evolved to an online gateway providing access to these and other premier Russian image collections via the Internet: Russian Archives Online, aka RAO.
Additionally, a network was established of interested international Russian history experts to provide ongoing guidance to the online and educational aspects of AMP.
On March 6, 1998, Abamedia and Internews Network, an international non-profit supporting independent media in emerging democracies, held a planning conference hosted by the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, to discuss aspects of Russian Archives Online services with academic advisors and potential funders. The primary interest of academics attending the conference was in the area of visual materials on the history of Russia, and the major recommendation from the conference was that AMP first continue its concentration on improving accessibility to the Krasnogorsk Archive, while making contacts with and providing ancillary information on other image archives as needed.
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.