The culture of Ukrainian borscht cooking, the national version of borscht consumed in several countries of the Eastern European region, has been inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding as an integral part of Ukrainian family and community life.
Festivals and cultural events are dedicated borsch cooking in Ukraine. In 2020, it was included in the national list of elements of intangible cultural heritage of the country and was to be considered for inscription on the Representative List in the Committee’s 2023 cycle, but the process was sped up.
The displacement of people and bearers threatens the element, as people are unable not only to cook or grow local vegetables for borscht, but also to come together to practice the element, which undermines the social and cultural well-being of communities.UNESCO
Due to the ongoing war and its negative impact on this tradition, Ukraine asked the Member States of the Committee to fast-track the examination of the nomination file for borscht to be inscribed on the List of Urgent Safeguarding as a case of extreme urgency, in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Convention. The Committee approved the listing on 1 July.
The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding aims at mobilizing attention in order to safeguard intangible cultural heritage whose viability is at risk despite the best efforts of the community or the State party. Inscribing an element helps stakeholders to undertake international cooperation and assistance to develop and implement a dedicated safeguarding action plan.
The culture of borscht cooking has long been practiced and celebrated in all regions of Ukraine, with communities, families and restaurants developing their own versions of this traditional and popular beetroot-based dish. It reflects local characteristics and products depending on the region.
Variations of borscht can include mushrooms, fish or sweet peppers. Whether as part of a wedding meal, the focus of food-related competitions or as a driver of tourism, borscht is considered part of the fabric of Ukrainian society, cultural heritage, identity and tradition.
Borscht cooking is also practiced in communities in the broader Eastern European region, and whilst the inscription recognizes the social and cultural importance of borscht cooking amongst Ukrainians, an inscription of an element of intangible cultural heritage on a list of the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage does not imply exclusivity, nor ownership of the heritage concerned.