Ukrainian Culture – The Breadbasket of Europe

Ukrainian culture is renowned for its rich traditions, particularly when it comes to food. The country is surrounded by fertile soil (chornozem) that’s ideal for growing wheat, sugar beets, corn, sunflowers, and soybeans. This abundance of produce is one reason why Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of Europe. Breads made from rye and wheat flour are a mainstay of every meal, as are hearty stews and soups.

The nation is also famous for its beautiful cathedrals and churches, many of which are adorned with gold and other precious metals. The city of Kyiv is home to several notable examples, including Saint Sophia’s Cathedral and the Pokrovsky Church. Kharkiv is a religious center as well, with numerous cathedrals, including the Annunciation Cathedral and Assumption Cathedral.

A peaceful mass protest referred to as the “Orange Revolution” in late 2004 and early 2005 forced the government to overturn a rigged presidential election, allowing new internationally monitored elections to sweep in a pro-Western reformist slate under President Viktor YANUKOVYCH. YANUKOVYCH’s backtracking on a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU, combined with blatant corruption, triggered a popular uprising in early 2014 that led to the overtaking of government forces by civilians who occupied the central square in Kyiv for three months. The violence that followed, international condemnation, and a failed political deal with Russia enabled pro-West President Petro POROSHENKO to take office in June 2014.

An important historic landmark is the Chernobyl nuclear plant, located near the city of Pripyat. The plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown in 1986 due to a flaw in its reactor’s containment vessel. The radioactive fallout spread to 500 kilometers, causing deaths and structural damage. It is now possible to visit the site, though you will need a special permit to do so.

One of the more unique aspects of Ukrainian cuisine is borscht, a vibrant beet-based soup. The recipe varies across regions, but it always features tomatoes, beets, garlic, and onion. It’s usually served cold and can be paired with a variety of meats, fish, or vegetables.

There are many different variations of borscht, but it’s best to enjoy it with some type of bread or pita. For a deliciously savory option, try deruny, which is a savory pancake made from grated potatoes, onions, and mushrooms mixed with a batter of flour, eggs, and sour cream. It’s then fried in a skillet until both sides are golden brown. It’s a popular breakfast item, but it can be enjoyed as an appetizer or side dish as well.

If you’re in the mood for some traditional Ukrainian dishes, there are many Ukrainian restaurants in Toronto. Check out our list below, and show your support for these locally-owned businesses by grabbing a bite at one of them!