UNESCO recognizes borscht as a Ukrainian dish in urgent need of safeguarding.

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-01 18:57:07 : James C. McKinley Jr.

It was a minor victory for Ukraine in a larger war for the country’s identity as the Russian army continues its deadly onslaught, attempting to manifest through force of arms President Vladimir V. Putin’s vision of Ukraine as part of Russia.

But it was a victory nonetheless: On Friday, the United Nations cultural body, UNESCO, declared borscht to be part of Ukraine’s “intangible cultural heritage” that is in urgent need of safeguarding.

The decision came after Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture submitted an emergency request to UNESCO to fast-track its decision on safeguarding borscht-making as a Ukrainian tradition, arguing that the Russian invasion gave the issue new urgency.

“Victory in the war for borscht is ours,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s minister of culture, said on Telegram.

The making of borscht — a red soup featuring a broth infused with beets that can include mushrooms, fish or sweet peppers — is deeply woven into Ukrainian culture, where it is prepared in large pots and served with bread. Ukrainian cooks have long wondered why is it commonly assumed to be Russian, a national dish of their current archenemy.

Though some Russian culinary historians acknowledge that borscht originated in Ukraine, Russia has seemed to stake more of its own claim to the soup since the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2019, the Russian government posted on its Twitter account a recipe and a message proclaiming that “borscht is one of Russia’s most famous and beloved dishes.”

That outraged some Ukrainian cooks. In 2020, a Ukrainian chef, Ievgen Klopotenko, started a campaign supported by the Ministry of Culture and Parliament to set the record straight — submitting an application to UNESCO for it to list borscht as part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage. UNESCO added borscht to the country’s cultural heritage list the following year.

But on Friday, at Ukraine’s request, a UNESCO committee went further, voting to put “the culture of Ukrainian borscht cooking” on the list of traditions that need “urgent safeguarding.”

The committee’s decision noted that making borscht in Ukraine is “a practice that dates back centuries and is passed on within families,” saying that it “unites people of all ages, genders and backgrounds at the table.”

“It is lauded in tales, folk songs and proverbs and viewed as a lifestyle and identity marker,” the committee’s decision said. But it noted that the war threatens the tradition, with the destruction of agriculture and the displacement of people from their hometowns “and from the cultural contexts necessary for the cooking and consumption of borscht in Ukraine.”

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