The Documentary Film Festival "Artdocfest" was first held in Moscow in 2007 at the platform of the "Khudozhestvenny" movie theater. Its organizer was the directorate of the National Award in the field of non-fiction films "Laurel Branch" (ANO "Laurel Award") and personally Vitaly Mansky, who led the review. The festival was created to support and promote the films of the closed professional competition "Laurel Branch", which are primarily involved in the nominations for "Best Authorial Documentary" and "Best Debut".

The first competition program included such now-known films as “Herbarium” by Natalia Meshchaninova, “My Class” by Ekaterina Eremenko, “Mother” by Pavel Kostomarov and Antoine Katin, “Artel” by Sergey Loznitsa, “Far Away From London” by Yulia Kiseleva.      The first jury composed of Dmitry Bykov, Aidan Salakhova and Boris Yukhananov awarded the Grand Prix to the film “It's not Scary” by Svetlana Fedorova. The festival instantly gained popularity and gathered in the "Khudozhestvenny" about 10 thousand spectators. For most of them, this was the only chance to get acquainted not only with Russian author's documentary, but also with the best films of foreign festivals. In the early years, as part of out-of-competition programs, the winners of IDFA and the Leipzig IFF were shown, as well as introduced to the national cinematography of a number of countries - Germany, the Czech Republic and others.

Until 2013, “Khudozhestvenny” remained the home of “Artdocfest,” where not only film screenings and discussions were held, but also earned the country's first pitching for authors of non-fiction films. It should be noted that over the years the number of films in programs, and viewers in the halls has increased, and "Artdocfest" has become crowded in the oldest cinema in Moscow. The political protests that began in the winter of 2011 brought many new spectators to the festival in search of an air of freedom. “Khudozhestvenny” was closed for restoration immediately after the VII festival, in January 2014 and still has not left it. In December of the same 2014, Artdocfest moved to to the cinema "Horizon" and "Wick". By that time, it had become the largest documentary film show in Russia in terms of the number of films, world and Russian premieres, screenings and the volume of the business program.

Since 2014, with the start of Russia's aggressive actions against Ukraine, Russian government agencies began to exert pressure on the festival and its leader. In the same year, Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky announced a prohibit on state support for all projects related to the festival.

In subsequent years, pressure continued on the partners of the festival. The Ministry of Culture and major officials and parliamentarians sued the festival on formal grounds in Russia. Harassment was organized in state media, including the country's main television channels. Pickets were held at festival platforms, including attacks on auditoriums, causing harm to the health of spectators.

In 2014, the festival president Vitaly Mansky moved to live and work in the Republic of Latvia, where in the same year for the first time in the framework of cooperation with the Riga International Film Festival RigaIFF, Artdocfest was presented with its documentary program. With continued pressure on the festival in Russia and the introduction of censorship and administrative obstacles to the free showing of the most lucid documentary films, the Riga part of Artdocfest intensified.

In 2018, the entire competition and the work of the jury of Artdocfest were transferred to Riga.

And in 2019, the winners of the festival were also announced in Riga. In 2016, in Moscow, the address of the actual residence of Artdocfest was the "Karo 11 October" cinema, and in St. Petersburg — "Angleterre".

The logical continuation in 2020 was the announcement of the creation of the Riga International Documentary Film Festival Artdocfest / Riga. The festival was organized jointly by the Latvian Directorate of Artdocfest, Biedriba “Artdoc Fest & Media” and the leaders of the documentary film industry in the Baltic region. The Artdocfest program has become one of two contests of the new festival. The second competition program is the Baltic Focus. More details in the IDFF regulation Artdocfest / Riga. Also in Riga, within the framework of IDFF Artdocfest / Riga, the famous Riga Documentary Film Symposium will be revived.

However, “Artdocfest” in Russia continues its work to this day. And its main competition program is essentially in emigration status in Latvia. Out-of-competition programs in Moscow and St. Petersburg gather full halls and cause widespread interest. Annually, hundreds of publications in the Russian and world press are dedicated to the festival. According to the results of the professional rating, the festival took first place among all Russian festivals for several years in a row, twice received the "White Elephant" National Award, as the main event of the year. He also received prizes in Italy at the Trieste Film Festival and other countries of the world.

Since 2017, "Artdocfest" in Riga, in cooperation with BSD, has been conducting pitching of independent projects from the countries of the former USSR. Also in Riga are many professional panels and special events. The festival management organizes field sessions in different countries of the world.

In 2017, the Latvian directorate opened on the Internet the largest resource in the world with the ability to legally view documentaries created after the collapse of the USSR. Also in the online cinematheque Artdoc.Media there is a catalog with information and a search system for several thousand films.

The festival is managed by the Latvian Artdoc Fest & Media Foundation. The organizer of the Russian part of the festival is ANO "Laurel Prize".

To participate in all programs of the Riga Festival and the Russian part of the festival, a single application is valid.

Acceptance of works until September 1, inclusive.