Life & Leisure

Battle of the Beets: Ukraine claims borscht as its own

Olga Tokariuk

Kiev, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- Ukraine has officially applied for its national dish – a beetroot soup called borscht – to be added to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.

“This is an important step which marks the start of international promotion of borscht as Ukrainian cultural heritage,” Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister Emine Dzhaparova tells Efe.

UNESCO’s list already includes Ukrainian Petrykivka decorative painting, the tradition of Kosiv painted ceramics and Cossack’s songs of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.

The nomination of borscht is a part of a wider government strategy to improve Ukraine’s image abroad, Dzhaparova says.

“‘Culinary diplomacy’, the promotion of Ukrainian gastronomic culture, is our priority according to the new public diplomacy strategy,” she says. “At the heart of it is the idea that cuisine is part of a country’s identity. We want Ukraine to be recognized in the world thanks to its food.”

But there is another motivation, according to Dzhaparova: to put an end to the centuries-old debate of which country owns borscht.

The Ukrainian roots of the beet soup have been disputed by its neighbors. In Russia and Poland this hearty meal is widely cooked and often considered their own national dishes.

“For centuries, there were attempts by other countries to steal and appropriate parts of Ukrainian cultural identity,” Dzhaparova explains.

“Since 2014 (when Russia annexed Crimea and started its military campaign in Eastern Ukraine), Ukraine has been distancing itself from the Soviet and Russian legacy. We want the world to know that Ukraine is an independent country that is different from Russia. By telling the story of borscht we want to tell Ukraine’s story to the world.”

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