Get to Know a Researcher - Megan Swift of Russian Studies

Associate Professor Megan Swift

Congratulations on your successful “1917 and Today: Putin, Russia and the Legacy of Revolution” conference held in October this year. What is the significance of 1917 and why did you choose to host this conference here in Victoria?

I felt it was important to bring together scholars from all across Canada, the US and UK to discuss the legacies of 1917 because Putin has been largely silent on this issue, in spite of the fact that this is the centenary year for the Russian Revolution. The Russian state has chosen to focus public celebration around a different event from the Soviet past--the WWII victory--but in fact recent polls show that the outcomes of the Revolution are still a painful, divisive and unresolved topic for Russians. It was important and timely to talk about these issues, especially in Victoria where we have a community of retired ambassadors and policy advisors that specialized in the Soviet Union, and I was happy that members of this group were featured in the conference community roundtable. 

It’s really interesting to see how your research and your teaching are so well-coordinated. For your current book project on Russian children’s literature, you also coordinated your research and teaching. This term you have two interesting courses: ‘The culture of the Russian revolution’ and ‘Putin’s Russia’. Can you tell us about the ways in which your students are engaging with this research material?

I’ve been very fortunate to have great support from the Humanities Computing and Media Centre and McPherson Library’s Archives and Special Collections. Those connections have allowed me to design projects that bring my students into the research that I do. During the “1917 and Today” conference I co-curated an art exhibit with students from my “Culture of the Russian Revolution” and “Putin’s Russia” classes. They did research projects to produce the captions and labels that accompanied period photographs from 1917, now owned by the Tate Gallery, and contemporary political satire by artist Sergei Elkin. In the past, I have worked with HCMC to create projects that allow students in my “Magic and the Fairytale World” class to annotate period Russian fairytale illustrations. This was a great way to bring students into the research I was producing for a book on illustrated children’s literature under Lenin and Stalin.  

Where will this research take you next?

The “1917 and Today” conference inspired by next book project, which is an edited volume on the legacies of 1917.