Instagram + Abkhazia, by Nathan Thornburgh

Roads and Kingdoms -- Instagram is the billion-dollar dollar buzzchild of social media and mobile photography. Abkhazia is a wartorn breakaway republic on the Black Sea where, at least when I visited there last year, people were far more likely to have a Kalashnikov in their home than a camera-phone. The two would seem like strange bedfellows.

And yet, behold: Instabkhazia , a new project dedicated to Instagram pictures of Abkhazia. Metin Sönmez, 33, a London-based webmaster and aficionado of all things Abkhaz (he’s Circassian, ethnic cousins to the Abkhaz people, and he runs ) hatched the project this spring with Kan Taniya, an Abkhaz student living in Italy. The mission: create a reservoir of images from one of Europe’s most forgotten corners.

It’s not a large project, nor has it been around for very long. But it immediately raised some controversy—typical for Abkhazia, land of strife, stuck in a long and bitter “peace” with its neighbor Georgia, with whom it fought a war of secession twenty years ago. The controversy here was from an Italian journalist, Giorgio Comai, who quickly accused the site of censoring the photos . “Instagram filters aren’t the only ones used by the editors of the site,” he wrote. “Up to now, their images do not have any trace of the semi-destroyed and abandoned buildings that… continue to characterize [Abkhazia]”.

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