The mid/late 1980s and the 1990s were a period of profound transition for the Soviet Union. The well-known reform movements Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (economic restructuring) changed the country irrevocably and ultimately set the stage for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. These movements vastly expanded the cultural openings of the previous decades. The 1980s and 1990s brought about the dissolution of state censorship and extraordinary opportunities were created for an open examination of Soviet and Russian society. The 1990s were a decade of unregulated capitalist growth that created a class of newly affluent business people and consumers of mass culture.
Photography and other art forms saw a burst of creative energy and multi-faceted experimentalism that moved in many different directions. The first years of Perestroika were marked by hope. Artists not only re-interpreted all aspects of Soviet political language and life, but they also often moved art into non-traditional spaces, bringing it directly to the public. Later, with the ensuing political and economic chaos of the mid 1990s, artists became more openly critical, confronting traditional Soviet mores and parodying the external realities of Soviet-Russian life and ideology. In the early 21st century, as the heady and often violent conditions of change began to stabilize, many artists turned toward aesthetic and metaphysical explorations of photography itself. It was a twenty-five year period of remarkable diversity and creativity in Russian photography.