Our borsch: how the Russian Foreign Ministry used the Ukrainian dish for military propaganda of the Russian Federation

Statements that borsch is a dish of Russian cuisine can be considered as Russian military propaganda. About this on Tuesday, 15 October, writes the BBC.

Фото: Depositphotos

The author of the publication drew attention to a tweet that appeared on the Twitter account of Russia, associated with the Russian Foreign Ministry. In a post published in May 2019, it was said that borsch is one of the most famous and beloved dishes of Russian cuisine and its symbol, and a recipe for this dish was provided, notes Lenta.ru report.

At the same time, the BBC notes, if for a regular Twitter user such a tweet looks obvious and harmless, in the Ukrainian segment of the social network it caused outrage.

“For Ukrainians, who consider borsch to be their national dish, this tweet is akin to wartime propaganda, especially given the occupation of Crimea and the territorial conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which has not abated since 2014,” the agency writes.

According to Alexei Kokcharov, an analyst with political and economic risks of Belarusian origin, who is currently living in London, such statements by the Russian Foreign Ministry are nothing more than “another attempt at cultural appropriation from Moscow.”

A similar point of view is shared by Olesia Lew, an expert at the agency, the chef of the Veselka restaurant located in New York.

“Yes, the Russians claim that it is their dish. However, this is the dish that they got through the occupation, ”she said.

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According to her, borscht has established itself in the collective consciousness as a dish of Russian cuisine mainly thanks to the efforts of the Kremlin, in particular, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. So, writes the BBC, Stalin gave an order to Anastas Mikoyan, who in the 1930's was the People's Commissar of the USSR food industry to develop the so-called Soviet national cuisine. As a result of his work, a “Book about tasty and healthy food” appeared, in which recipes of dishes traditional for various peoples living on the territory of the Soviet Union were collected.

“This cookbook made all these dishes a part of Soviet culture and, thus, Russian, as Russian culture was the most significant for the USSR,” said Lev.

What does this Soviet food Bible say about borscht? Chapter 6 (Soups) starts with cabbage-based cabbage soup, this category lists six different recipes, followed by Borsch, then Summer Borsch (with pumpkin, celery and beets), and then finally , differentiated "Ukrainian borscht" (explanation from "Bi-bi-si"For foreigners: imagine an American cookbook with several recipes for tacos that end with" Mexican tacos "- that's how weird it sounds).

According to Mikoyan’s recipe, classic borscht contains meat, beets, cabbage, root vegetables, onions, tomato paste, vinegar and sugar, and “Ukrainian” borscht contains meat, cabbage, potatoes, beets, tomato paste, carrots, parsnips, onions, lard, butter, vinegar and garlic seasoned with sour cream and chopped parsley. The Ukrainian recipe, presented as a separate iteration of the standardized version, is by far the most famous.

While the wider world may view borscht as a typically "Russian" meal, very few non-Russians are familiar with the much less exciting Russian option - cabbage soup. Cabbage soup, as the main cabbage soup, is essentially borscht without beets.

The Russian dictionary of Ukrainian words of 1823 of the year defined borsch as “the same as cabbage soup”, and the book of Russian etymology of 1842 of the year distinguishes between Russian cabbage soup (meaning soup with sauerkraut) and Ukrainian borsch, a word that actually refers to the traditional soup ingredient: hogweed. Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) grows throughout Eurasia, but is most active in marshy areas around the Danube and Dnieper river deltas. Long before the appearance of the modern countries of Russia or Ukraine, the inhabitants of the Black Sea region cooked soup from pickled stems, leaves and flowers of hogweed. Recipe books show that Ukrainians added beets to the recipe.

Pro-Russian ideologists use the complex past of the region to advance a rewritten history that draws a direct line from the current Russian regime back to the original Slavic civilization. To this end, in its tweet, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs doubled its historical bias, paraphrasing the origin of borsch from the “Russian” borschik, which dates back to the “Ancient Russia” of the 10 century.

The problem with this claim is that Ancient Rus was centered in Kiev, the current capital of Ukraine. Over the past millennium, Ukraine's largest city has experienced numerous invasions, occupations, and violent uprisings - often against Russian influence on Ukrainian politics. The rebranding of the Ukrainian national food product as Russian is even more ironic and offensive in light of the Holodomor, an artificial famine created under Stalin in 1932-33, when forced collectivization, aggressive grain purchases, and the confiscation of grocery stores starved millions of Ukrainians. Russia still has not recognized the Holodomor as genocide.

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The battle for borscht and its meaning continues online, especially around the official definition of soup. Ukrainian Wikipedia describes borscht as “found in Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Lithuanian, Iranian, and Jewish national cuisines,” but does not mention Russian cuisine. At the same time, the Russian-language Wikipedia says: “Borsch is a type of beet soup that gives it its characteristic red color. A traditional dish of the Eastern Slavs, this is the first dish of Ukrainian cuisine. "

Admittedly, the broader, non-Slavic world views borscht as a Russian dish, while Poles only know it as their favorite Polish borscht (barszcz). This aggravates the problem, as at least half of Ukraine has been occupied by Poland for several centuries. Meanwhile, the common English spelling of borscht (borscht - with the letter "t") comes from the Yiddish transliteration, as the soup was brought to the west by predominantly Jewish refugees fleeing Eastern Europe. Food travels with people, which is why borscht is now popular all over the world.

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