In 2004, the group took a hiatus after they split from their producer. In 2005, they released Dangerous and Moving and Lyudi Invalidy. During 2006, t.A.T.u. released a compilation album and then ventured on their own after negotiating out of their contract with Universal Music.
A third Russian studio album, titled Veselye Ulybki is said to be released after the third single "You and I", while their third English studio album, Happy Smiles, is expected to be released alongside its Russian counterpart.
Ivan Shapovalov and his friend/business partner Alexander Voitinskyi developed plans to create a musical project in Russia. With this idea in mind, Shapovalov and Voitinskyi organized auditions in Moscow in late 1999 for teenage female vocalists. By the end of auditioning, the two narrowed their search down to ten girls, including ex-members of the group Neposedi, Katina and Volkova. Both girls stood out among the others, especially because of their appearance and vocal experience, but the producers decided to start with 15 year-old Lena Katina, who sang "It Must Have Been Love" by Roxette. Katina began recording demos, including "Yugoslavia" a song about the Kosovo War, which Voitinskyi had written about the turmoil he experienced. After the demos were cut, Shapovalov insisted that another girl be added to the project, so soon after they added on 14 year old Yulia Volkova.
After completing the duo, the producers decided on the name Тату (Tatu). It is a shortened version from the Russian "Ta lyubit Tu", meaning "She loves her". For the release of their first English-language album, they decided to go by t.A.T.u., using uppercased letters and periods to differentiate between an already existing Australian band also named "Tatu."
The two began to record songs with their producers; eventually, Voitinskyi left the project. Shapovalov decided to sign Elena Kiper as co-producer and co-writer for their debut album.
Stringent rules were laid out for Katina and Volkova. Their management told the girls only to sign autographs for people related to the group, no one else, and to only give brief answers to the press, if at all. They were forbidden to speak about their sexual activities, living together and their personal lives. Their tight contract they were under dictated what they did, what they said, and even how they felt. Volkova was told to ignore questions from reporters, frown, and look clearly upset to further the contrast between herself and Katina.
On May 16, 2001, after releasing the hit "Ya Soshla S Uma," and touring Russia and surrounding countries, t.A.T.u. was signed to Universal Music Russia for five albums. The group released their debut album on May 21, 2001. 200 Po Vstrechnoy (200 [km/h] on the Counter) included 9 tracks, and 2 remixes. At the same time, the girls released their second video and single, titled Nas Ne Dogonyat." It countered the claim that t.A.T.u was just a one-hit wonder. After one week of heavy rotation on MTV Russia, it went straight to #1 on MTV's "Russian Top 10" (a weekly chart show with Russian-only videos competing with each other) and #7 on the MTV Top 20. The single received success on radio as well, listed on 1st National Radio "Russian Radio" and 7 other national radio stations in Russia.
In late 2001, t.A.T.u. recorded a video for their third single, 30 Minut." The single was released in September, and in August the girls were scheduled to begin recording their songs in English. Yulia, who did not speak fluent English then, enlisted the aid of an English professor from Moscow State University, delaying the recording. The girls continued to tour throughout Europe.
Early in January 2002, the girls began recording their English album first in London, England, then in the United States. In April, it was announced that Elena Kiper had left the group as co-producer, and that she was being replaced by Beata Andreeva, a former MTV VJ. Later that month, t.A.T.u. recorded the song and video for Prostye Dvizheniya. The video was then released in May and showed, according to the girls, "How simple moves are always in our lives, like drinking water, reading a book," which is what Katina does during most of the video, or masturbating, which is what Volkova does in the video.
In June, t.A.T.u. made their first appearance on MTV's TRL in New York. , and in September, the single All The Things She Said was released on CD format. Later in February, the group's debut Russian album, 200 Po Vstrechnoy was re-released with a new song ("Klouny") and two new remixes. The album received the IFPI Platinum Europe Award, having sold a million copies of "200 po Vstriechnoy" in Europe; the girls became the first artists from Eastern Europe to receive this award.
On December 10, 2002, t.A.T.u. released 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane, the English version (co-produced by Trevor Horn) of their Russian debut album. The debut English-language album sold over five million copies around the world.
The band and its management were criticized for their blatant use of lesbian imagery to create controversy and publicity. For instance, the cover of the January 2003 issue of Maxim magazine Russia showed Volkova topless and wearing a skimpy thong bikini bottom with Elena wearing sportswear lingerie. Both girls were 17. Other photo shoots included the September 2003 issue of FHM Russia, where both girls were topless and Elena was covering Yulia's breasts with her hands. Questions about their sexuality were evaded by ambiguous statements such as "Don't be afraid to be yourself; don't be afraid to love", or that they did not like labels. Katina once said in an interview that this lesbianism was "no image", while Katina had acknowledged in earlier interviews that it was an obligation.
In a 2003 interview on Liquid News, the girls stated that they preferred not to answer personal questions, those specifically about their sexuality. One reporter mentioned that people did not believe that they were actually lesbians, then another reporter chimed in saying "kiss, kiss." Both girls just laughed, and Katina told them that if they want to see her and Yulia kiss, they can just watch their video. It was also mentioned that t.A.T.u. had reached the top of the charts in the U.K. In late February and early March of 2003, the girls flew to the U.S. to promote their new English album. Filming on the reality show Anatomy of t.A.T.u. began during this time. They caused much controversy through the media for their attitude, choice of words, sexuality and their phrase "Hui Voine!" ("Fuck War!"). The girls first wore shirts with this phrase on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, but it was the studio not showing the girls' kiss that got people talking. A day later on Jimmy Kimmel Live, they were not allowed to wear the shirts, however Yulia ended up writing the phrase on Kimmel's hand. On Total Request Live, the girls irritated their hosts by ignoring questions, messing around on stage and speaking Russian to each other. The hosts failed to pronounce the group's name correctly (saying it as individual letters) throughout the entire show even after being corrected by Yulia. Ivan Shapovalov was standing in front of the hosts as the show was coming back from commercial break. One of the hosts said "People don't know how this works, it's unbelievable." TRL did not censor the words printed on the shirts, nor the kiss between the girls. The girls also appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly, Craig Kilborn and MADtv. They also did a photo shoot for Maxim magazine which was included in their May 2003 issue, though photos with their shirts were only available online. The group faced a lawsuit in May after management canceled two concerts, one at the Wembley Arena (Scheduled for May 2, 2003), and another at the Manchester Evening News Arena (May 4). EEM Group, who were organizing the performances, told BBC that they would sue the managers of t.A.T.u. for nearly $500,000 for both canceling and throwing unobtainable obstacles to the EEM Group. BBC also stated that the concerts were canceled due to poor ticket sales, but the group stated it was due to Yulia's vocal cyst.
t.A.T.u. represented Russia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2003 and were thought to win. They decided to sing "Ne Ver', Ne Boysia", but because of Volkova's inflamed vocal cords she did not take part in rehearsals, and their performance was rough at the beginning. The girls were placed third but claimed they would have won if the Irish telephone votes had been counted - a technical fault within eircom led to a jury deciding placings (it was also notable that, despite a #1 single in Ireland, they weren't awarded any points by the jury). They later stated, "Eurovision is for beginners ... we were already artists and only attended because our country asked us to attend". Russia protested the Eurovision results but to no avail. During the same year, in a concert in Istanbul they sang Sertab Erener's song "Every Way That I Can" (Sertab Erener was the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest that year). Received the IFPI Platinum Europe Award again, for sales 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane in Europe; the girls are now the first artists and only artist get this award for the same album in two languages.
At the 2003 MTV Movie Awards, t.A.T.u. performed "All the Things She Said" and "Not Gonna Get Us". The performance includes nearly 100 girls dancing around the stage, having them strip at the end of the performance and kiss each other. The chorus in "Not Gonna Get Us" is partly playback due to the fact that Yulia had developed a vocal cord cyst earlier that year during Eurovision. During this trip to the U.S., they also taped a segment for the "Show Me Love" video on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.
On September 26, 2003, the act released a compilation CD of remixes, titled Remixes. In November 2003, the CD was released in Russia, with two new tracks, and videos. The two new tracks were "Prostiye Dvizheniya" (which was previously released as a single but had not appeared on a commercial release before) and "Ne Ver, Ne Boysya."
Anatomy of t.A.T.u. aired on Russian television on December 12, 2003. The documentary revealed that the girls were not lesbians.
From January to March 2004, STS in Russia aired Podnebesnaya, a thirteen-episode reality show/documentary which chronicled the group recording their second album with producer Ivan Shapovalov. The girls recorded a few songs, some of which were used for their second album. Only a few months after the show aired, Katina and Volkova left Shapovalov, claiming the quality of the music being produced was too low, and that he was only interested in creating scandals. Volkova stated, "He [Ivan] spends his time thinking up scandals instead of planning our artistic work. I'm sure our fans would rather hear new songs and new albums than new scandals."
On September 23, 2004, Volkova gave birth to Viktoria (Vika) Pavlovna Volkova, and she soon returned to the studio with Katina.
The second single was "Friend or Foe." Soon after the video was released, the group's management replaced drummer Roman Ratej with Steve Wilson, and appointed a new bassist, Domen Vajevec.
On April 17, 2006, t.A.T.u. returned to reality TV in Russia with t.A.T.u. Expedition, which was broadcast on the Russian music channel Muz Tv. It chronicled the release of their second album, and recording the video for their third single, "Gomenasai" which was released during the airing of the show. t.A.T.u. performed in St. Petersburg, Russia on April 28 kicking off their Dangerous and Moving Tour. On August 30, 2006, the official website announced that the girls had left their record company, Universal/Interscope.
On November 21, 2006, the region of the Komi Republic in Russia filed a lawsuit against t.A.T.u. over the album and song "Lyudi Invalidy". Leonid Vakuev, a human rights representative for the Komi Republic, cited words written in the booklet for the album, which said: "Disabled people [Lyudi Invalidy] do not know what it means to be a human being. They are fakes inside the human form. They do not live, but — function". Katina said, "Of course, we meant moral invalids, people who do not have [a] soul and human feelings." When asked if they had anything against disabled people, she stated that she finds it offensive to refer to people by that term, and added, "We take pictures together and make sure they have priority seats [at concerts]."
On May 17, 2007, t.A.T.u. issued a statement directed to their gay fans: "When t.A.T.u.'s second album came out, many of our fans of alternative sexual orientation thought that we lied and betrayed them. This is not true! We’ve never done that and we’ve always advocated love without boundaries. On May 26, they flew out to Moscow to take part in the Moscow Gay Pride demonstration.
On September 12, 2007 the group released Truth. It was the group's first release since leaving Universal. In late 2007, "Beliy Plaschik," the leading single from their upcoming album was released. The album's second single, "220", made its radio premiere in May 2008 and the music video was released on their official Youtube channel on June 5, 2008. Their Russian third album was originally to have been titled Upravleniye Otbrosami (Waste Management), and was due out in June 2008. However, on 9 September, 2008, the band issued a press release revealing that the album would be called Vesyolye Ulybki (Happy Smiles), and is to be released in October 2008. The English-language version, Happy Smiles, is due out later on in the year. So far Volkova and Katina have performed live shows in Russia, Germany, France, Dubai, Italy, Egypt and California. They were due to fly out to America in order to promote and perform at the Avalon Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA but due to Volkova's then ill health, they had to cancel. At the end of August, 2008 it was announced that Volkova and Katina will replace Victoria Beckham in the fall and winter fashion campaigns for designer Marc Jacobs.
In a September 9, 2008 press release posted on t.A.T.u's official website, the announcement was officially made that the new album would be titlted Vesyolye Ulybki and be released in the coming weeks. However almost a month later on October 8, the same press release was re-issued but with no new information, except that the face of the Astronaut on the albums artwork has been replaced by a black square. The album will include 12 songs recorded over the last 18 months. Their new single, "You and I" was released on Love Radio and their official Myspace on September 12.
Lena Katina said in an interview that You and I is set for release in Spring 2009 and that there will not be a video for the single, "You and I". She also mentioned that they recently shot a video for the fourth single off of Veselye Ulybki.
After t.A.T.u. broke ties with Universal Music in 2006, it was finally announced in 2008 that T.A. Music would become the standing record label for t.A.T.u., although only currently in the Russian market. Boris Renski is still currently the band's Manager.