Borscht, a traditional beetroot and cabbage soup, has caused a food war between Russia and Ukraine.
The soup is synonymous with Russia in many places across the globe but Ukraine chef Ievgen Klopotenko’s request to include it in his country’s cultural heritage has stirred the unconventional conflict.
Klopotenko, who has a renowned restaurant in central Kiev, says: “In many shops in Turkey, Slovenia, America, you can find canned Borscht where it says ‘Russian soup’. If we go to a restaurant abroad and there is ‘borscht’ on the menu, the translation is ‘Russian soup’. It’s just unbelievable!”
He added: “We will register something bigger. We will register the culture of borscht in Ukraine, and the tradition to cook it. We cook it so often, that it has become a part of the culture.”
Ukrainian historians say borscht was first mentioned in 1548 in the diary of a European traveller who tasted it in the market near Kiev. They claim it arrived in Russia much later with Ukrainian settlers.
Last month, the chef brought a pot of borscht to Ukraine’s culture ministry to convince officials to submit an application to the Unesco to list the soup as an intangible part of the country’s heritage.
The list already includes French gastronomy, Neapolitan pizza and Georgian wine.
The ministry agreed and said it was preparing the application before the March deadline, so it can be examined in December next year.
Moscow bristled with the development, with the embassy in the US tweeting that borscht was the national food of many countries, each with their own recipes.
The Russian government soon followed, by calling borscht “one of Russia’s most famous and beloved dishes and a symbol of traditional cuisine” in a tweet.
However, the soup is not the only source of tension between the countries. Russia and Ukraine have always had their tension and this only fuelled the rage among Russians.
With the cultural similarity, it is a clash between brothers under different political institutions. Many parts of Ukraine used to come under Russia and later were included in the Soviet Union.
Due to this identity crisis, Ukraine has always had a bitter relationship with Russia. And borscht has now become the latest topic of debate between them.
Many Ukrainians claim it is not just a delicious soup to them, it culturally denotes them and thus should be officially declared as their cultural heritage.
According to Olena Shcherban, a Ukrainian ethnologist and historian, the connection of the soup with Russia is ridiculous. It is not just food for them but their recognition.
Borscht has always been questioned for its origin. But this feud has just taken the matter to another level.
It doesn’t matter who wins or loses. The only thing that matters is how far Ukraine and Russia are willing to go to resolve the conflict in their favour. And more importantly, what is going to be the next source of contention between them.