“I don’t really like to call it a war for borscht, but actually it is“, assures AFP Mr. Klopotenko, 33, curly hair and diploma from the French culinary school Le Cordon Bleu in the pocket, in his restaurant of Ukrainian cuisine in the center of Kiev.
Star of social networks, he brought in October a casserole of borscht to a meeting of the Ministry of Culture to convince him to propose this dish for the list of the intangible world heritage of UNESCO which already includes French gastronomy, the Neapolitan pizza. or wine from Georgia.
The ministry could not resist and announced that it was preparing the Ukrainian dossier for UNESCO, which will close the reception of applications in March 2021.
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Russia, whose relations with Kiev are at their lowest in seven years, has been stung.
“Borscht is a national food of many countries including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Lithuania“the Russian Embassy in the United States wrote on Twitter.
Soon after, the Russian government called borscht “one of the most famous and loved Russian dishes“, on his official Twitter account.
According to the Ukrainians, however, a dish bearing this name was first mentioned in 1548 in the diary of a European traveler who bought a portion of it at a market in Kiev. And this soup did not arrive in Russia until much later via Ukrainian settlers, says Kiev.
Once part of the Russian Empire, then of the USSR, Ukraine, of which a good part of the population speaks Russian, has largely remained in the zone of political but also cultural influence of its powerful neighbor even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
– Quest for identity –
But Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and the war in the east of the country with pro-Russian Kremlin-sponsored separatists turned the game around causing a rise in patriotism and a quest for national identity. in the country.
After centuries of Russian rule, “our nation lacks identity, we have nothing of our own, they took everything from us“, says Klopotenko.
“When I started to study Ukrainian food and cuisine, I realized that Ukrainian cuisine did not exist. Everything is soviet“, said the young leader. The USSR has”swallowed” l’Ukraine, “chewed it up and spat it out (…) We don’t know who we are or what we are“, he says.
Olena Chtcherban, a 40-year-old Ukrainian ethnologist and historian, ticks when she sees this dish called “russian soup“abroad where he is often associated with Russia.
“We have different languages, culture and food“, underlines the young woman, dressed in a national costume at the small museum of borscht which she has just opened in Opichnia, in the center of Ukraine, after having organized there during seven years a festival dedicated to this soup.
“Borscht is the second dish I ate after my mother’s milk“, she assures.
Unlike the French or Italians who “pride themselves on their cuisine“Ukrainians know”their story wrong“and”lack pride“for their gastronomy, notes the ethnographer.
For Mr. Klopotenko, love for borscht is one of the few things Ukrainians share, divided on many topics ranging from history to geopolitics.
“Even though I hate someone, when he comes home, and I come home, we each eat borscht“, he explains.”Borscht is what unites us“.
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