“Victory in the borsch war is ours,” rejoiced in the wake of the UN announcement, Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkatchenko. Ukraine “will win both the borscht war” and the current conflict with Moscow, he wrote on his Telegram account.

Before the UNESCO Heritage Commission, Minister Tkatchenko had made more measured remarks. Despite the war, “many Ukrainian families are going to eat Ukrainian borsch today”, he commented. “In the destroyed cities, in the other countries which welcomed the Ukrainian populations, the Ukrainian borsch is a gastronomic symbol of our national identity”.

Borchtch is a soup made from beets and cabbage, often accompanied by fresh cream, very popular in Central Europe, especially in Russia. It is commonly believed that this dish is of Ukrainian origin.

Invaded on February 24 by troops from Moscow who killed thousands of civilians and multiplied the destruction, Ukraine, while fiercely resisting the Russians, multiplied the diplomatic offensives against its adversary.

One of them concerns borsch. In mid-April, Ukraine requested the inclusion of this soup on the list of intangible cultural heritage in danger, considering that the conflict initiated by Russia threatened the “viability” of the tradition surrounding this dish.

Two months later, a UNESCO committee on intangible cultural heritage, meeting in extraordinary session, agreed with kyiv.

“The existence of this soup (…) is not in danger in itself, but it is the human and living heritage which is associated with borsch which is in immediate danger because the capacity of the populations to practice, to transmit their intangible cultural heritage is seriously disrupted because of the armed conflict (and) in particular the forced displacement of communities”, explained Friday Pier Luigi Petrillo, rapporteur of the evaluation committee of the file.

– ‘Victoire’ –

“People are no longer able to prepare or even grow the local vegetables that are needed to prepare” borsch, nor can they come together to prepare this dish, he observed.

The armed conflict also destroys “the environment, the fauna, the flora”, further listed Mr. Petrillo. “For all these factors, it is necessary to carry out an urgent safeguarding of this element”.

“It’s definitely a victory on the cultural front,” Ukrainian leader Ievgen Klopotenko said on Facebook. “We had hundreds of pages of evidence that borsch culture was definitely Ukrainian, but all the Russian propaganda was against us.”

However, Unesco has in no way attributed the paternity of borsch to Ukraine. Annoyed, Russia, through its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, denounced Ukrainian “nationalism” which it derided.

“If there is a need to explain to the world what contemporary Kievan nationalism is, I will mention this fact: hummus and rice pilaf are recognized as the national dishes of several countries. But, as I understand it, Ukrainianization s ‘applies for everything,’ she quipped.

“What will it be next? Pigs will be recognized as a Ukrainian national product?” asked the spokeswoman, who had previously accused kyiv of “xenophobia”, “Nazism” and “extremism” for its politicization of borsch.

On Friday, Muscovites interviewed by AFP were less sharp.

Unesco “made the right decision” because “Ukrainian borsch, with pampouchka (garlic bread, editor’s note) and bacon, is like a trademark”, believes Irina Velijantseva. And this 68-year-old retiree adds: “But I also make my own borsch and I must admit that it’s not bad either.”