The brainchild of manager/video director Ivan Shapovalov, t.A.T.u. is a Russian pop girl duo that was formed in 2000. According to the official legend at the time, the name ([b]Тату[/b], the Russian transliteration of "tattoo") originated from their decision to refuse to sign any autographs except in the form of a tattoo. A later theory claims the origin is the contraction of the Russian sentence "[b]Та[/b] любит [b]ту[/b]" (This [girl] loves that [girl]). Afterwards, the producers added the dots between the letters prior to the release of the international edition of their first album, [i]200 km/h in the Wrong Lane[/i], because there already existed an Australian band ([a445961]) with the same name.

From the start t.A.T.u. were a sensation in Russia, thanks to savvy packaging and snappy pop songs. Dressed in schoolgirl uniforms, the teenagers (Lena's the redhead, Julia's the brunette) appeared on stage and in public as sapphic lovers. Despite kissing each other every chance they got and being generally sassy, the duo denied being lesbians in interviews ("We just love each other"), which only served to bolster the rumors. The true nature of their relationship was part of the mystery and hype of the package, but they made the charts on the strength of catchy pop singles.

Their first album, [i]200 po Vstriechnoy[/i] (200 km/h in the Wrong Lane) was a top hit in Russia in 2001. The videos and hit songs such as "Ya Soshla S Uma" ("All The Things She Said") and "Nas Ne Dagoniat" ("Not Gonna Get Us") brought them international popularity and an English-version release of their album in 2002, helping them make the leap from stars on MTV Russia to stars on MTV in the United States. Following the success of their first album and tour, they cast aside their manager and their lesbian façade and in 2005 released albums in English and Russian, [i]Dangerous and Moving[/i] and [i]Ludi Invalidi[/i].