The band was formed by Tsoi, Aleksei Rybin, and Oleg Valinskiy in the summer of 1981 in Leningrad, USSR (now St. Petersburg, Russia) as a punk rock band Garin i giperboloidy (Гарин и гиперболоиды) (after a novel by Aleksey Tolstoy, Giperboloid inzhenera Garina, published in English as Engineer Garin and His Death Ray). A year later the name of the band was changed to Кино (often stylized in uppercase: "КИНО").
In the summer 1982, Кино's first album 45 (according to its length in minutes) was recorded together with the musicians of the band Аквариум. The album was slowly distributed and gave an apparent fame to the group.
The first real hit was the album Ночь (Noch, or Russian for "night") released in 1986; the six songs from the album were included in the Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR compilation disc released in the U.S. in 1986.
Due to the beginning of the Perestroyka era the band came out with the 1988 album Группа крови (Gruppa krovi, Russian for "blood type"). Together with the movie The Needle in which Tsoi starred, brought the band to the pinnacle of its populatity.
During the next two years the band released another album and did shows abroad and in the USSR, attracting enormous audiences, until August 15, 1990, when Tsoi died tragically in a car accident near Riga. The tape with the vocal track for the new album survived the accident. The album was completed by the rest of the band and released in 1990 without a title, though it is always cited as Chornyy albom (Russian for "Black Album") since it had a completely black cover.
The band's popularity in the Soviet Union was so extraordinarily high that after Tsoi's death many fences, rocks and walls in the whole country were covered with the words "Цой жив!" ("Tsoi is alive!") and "КИНО". Writing these words became a kind of a memorial ritual among the fans of the band and even now new writings appear from time to time.