New Ukraine-Russia Battle Is Over Borscht

Ukraine wants UNESCO to recognize dish as 'intangible cultural heritage'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2020 5:35 PM CDT
New Ukraine-Russia Battle Is Over Borscht
"Borscht has five basic ingredients: potatoes, cabbage, onion, carrots and beets," but there are many variants, says Maryna Sobotiuk, who is working on the UNESCO bid.   (Getty Images/Arx0nt)

While it may not rival the intractable hummus conflicts of the Middle East or the battles over baklava from Greece to Iran, a borscht dispute is simmering between Ukraine and Russia. Kyiv chef Yevhen Klopotenko has spearheaded an effort to have the beloved beet soup recognized as Ukraine's "intangible cultural heritage" by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, Radio Free Europe reports. In a Facebook post earlier this month, Kloptenko said the country's Culture Ministry had approved the move after he presented commissioners with the results of exhaustive research including recipes gathered from 26 regions—along with five liters of soup. The UNESCO bid will be submitted next year.

A conflict involving Russia-backed militants has killed 13,000 people since 2014 in Ukraine, where passions were aroused last year when Russia's foreign ministry tweeted that borscht was one of Russia's "most famous and traditional dishes." Ukrainians considered it to be an insult to their national dish, and New York-based Ukrainian chef Olesia Lew told the BBC that the soup was "most definitely from Ukraine." The BBC notes the Russian equivalent is shchi, a cabbage soup without beetroot; borscht only became popular there when Stalin's Commissar of Food took dishes from around the USSR to create a Soviet national cuisine. "It’s a food they developed through occupation," says Lew. Klopotenko tells the Washington Post he's not worried about Russia's reaction to the UNESCO move. "They're already at war with us," he says. "What’s the worst they can do?" (More Ukraine stories.)

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