Ukraine War Puts 'Borsch' In UNESCO’s Endangered Heritage List
Image Credit: Shutterstock | Borsch Soup In UNESCO’s Endangered Heritage List

As the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War ensues, leaders and experts are expressing concern as to future ramifications of the war on the respective countries and the world in general. In the midst of the mayhem, Borsch, a hearty soup, typically made with beetroot and potatoes, consumed by both Ukraine and Russia also made headlines recently. UNESCO, added the cooking of Borsch in Ukraine to its list of endangered intangible cultural heritage. The war has “threatened” the cooking of Borsch in Ukraine, the UN cultural agency noted.  

The Borsch Wars

The origins of the soup have been a point of contention for many years. While Ukraine considers Borsch to be its national dish, it is equally savoured and celebrated in Russia and parts of Poland too. Over the years, the debate also reached social media, with people weighing in their opinions related to the dish’s origins, its spelling, ingredients, technique of preparation. Even minute details like whether it should or should not comprise meat or the inclusion of sour cream on top have contributed to what has now been labelled as, ‘the Borsch Wars’ on social media.  

Reacting to UNESCO’s statement, Ukraine's Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said, "Victory in the war for borsch is ours!". To which Russia's foreign ministry replied saying that Russia's version of the dish needed no safeguarding.  

In the year 2020, Ukraine had made a plea to UNESCO to add the ‘culture of cooking the dish’ to the list of endangered cultural heritage. While the decision of adding it to the list was due to be made in 2023, it was fast-tracked keeping in mind Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In a press release, UNESCO noted that the move had a "negative impact" on the tradition of the dish. "The armed conflict has threatened the viability of the element... as people are unable not only to cook or grow local vegetables", noted UNESCO, adding that people are also finding it tough to come together “to practice the element, which undermines the social and cultural well-being of communities".

Mr. Tkachenko said that, the was Borsch would also be won by Ukraine, and that Ukraine would happily share Borsch and its recipes with all “civilised countries” and with “uncivilised ones” too. 

His comment was not well-received by the Russian foreign ministry. Their spokeswoman Ms. Maria Zakharova ridiculed the move, on her Telegram she wrote that “our borsch has no need of safeguarding but should be subject to immediate and complete destruction on the plate.”.  

Reacting to the “national dish” status of Borsch in Ukraine, she questioned that if everything is subject to Ukrainisation, then will pork be also declared a Ukrainian national food?

The delicious soup of Borsch is typically deep red in colour due to the presence of beetroot, but white and green versions of the soup exist as well. It can be made for both summer and winter and can be based on a vegetable or meat stock. Here’s a delicious recipe you can try soon.