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Ukrainian borshch added to UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage

by Alisa Sobolieva July 2, 2022 12:42 PM 1 min read
Ukrainian traditional beetroot soup borshch is now on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. (Depositphotos)
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Ukrainian traditional beetroot soup, borshch, is now inscribed on UNESCO’s list of endangered intangible cultural heritage.

On July 1, UNESCO approved a decision to add borshch to the list after Ukraine requested the agency fast track the procedure amid Russia’s war.

The UN cultural agency said in a statement Russia’s war had threatened the traditional dish.

“The displacement of people and bearers threatens the element, as people are unable not only to cook or grow local vegetables for borshch, but also to come together to practice the element, which undermines the social and cultural well-being of communities,” the statement reads.

Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko welcomed the decision: “Victory in the war for borshch is ours.”

Borshch, a dish traditionally made with beets and potatoes, is a staple in every Ukrainian household. The dish is also eaten in other countries in the region, which has led to a long-lasting debate over who it belongs to.

When Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the question of protecting Ukrainian culture became more urgent than ever. With national cuisine being a key element of culture, the “borshch debate” took on an even more significant meaning.

In 2019, Russia's official Twitter account tweeted, "Borshch is one of Russia's most famous and beloved dishes and a symbol of traditional cuisine."

The tweet ignited a global debate, which later resulted in Ukrainian celebrity chef Yevhen Klopotenko launching an initiative to nominate the culture of Ukrainian borshch cooking for UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Today, the initiative reached its final goal.

Klopotenko believes the decision goes beyond the recognition of Ukrainian borshch. It is also a recognition of Ukrainian cuisine.

"Earlier, Ukrainians said – Ukrainian cuisine exists, and Russians said – Ukrainian cuisine does not exist. Now UNESCO, as a judge, has recognized by its decision that Ukrainian cuisine exists," Klopotenko told the Kyiv Independent.

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