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Get to know the Republic of Zaqistan, a micronation enclaved in Utah's west desert

Something From Nothing



Sculptor Zaq Landsberg came across one of those elusive "Big Ideas" in 2005. After it arrived, he invested his time and his money and then more of his time into it. And today, the project he created is still a part of his life.

What would become The Republic of Zaqistan started with Landsberg's hearing of a plot of land for sale in the desert west of Salt Lake City. Interest piqued, he bid on the land for $610 on eBay and in August of 2005, he visited the site of his new country for the first time, dubbing that trip the "First Expedition."

Sculptor Zaq Landsberg founded Zaqistan on land he purchased online     for $610. - COURTESY  PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Sculptor Zaq Landsberg founded Zaqistan on land he purchased online for $610.

A few months later on Nov. 19, National Independence Day was declared for Zaqistan, a member of a micronational community that's sprung up in varying degrees of seriousness since the late 1960s. A recent resurgence has helped refuel Landsberg's relationship to his self-titled nation—one that has a state flag, a seal, an anthem and no small amount of global press attention.

"I have a vested interest in it, of not wanting it to look like garbage, decaying in the desert," Landsberg said.

Zaqistan’s flag  features a gold giant squid on a red field. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Zaqistan’s flag features a gold giant squid on a red field.

In the nearly two decades that have passed since Zaqistan's creation on Earth, a number of folks have visited. They often do so during days in which the Brooklyn-based Landsberg is in Utah, working on the art installations that dot the Republic's otherwise barren landscape.

He's also heard from others who've found it on their own time and dime, simply wanting to experience a space that's all kinds of magical—think of an alternate version of the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, only placed in the high desert, far from the nearest road—let alone town—and claiming some degree of national sovereignty.

Of late, Zaqistan has been back on Landsberg's mind, and he said he's shooting for a September pilgrimage to the site, hoping to refresh some of the art and perhaps to build a bit more. That would also allow diehard fans—some of whom claim honorary dual-citizenship in the place—an opportunity to visit the land with its pitch-perfect motto of Quispiam Ex Nusquam ("Something From Nothing").

Zaq Landsberg, left, poses next to a passport applicant. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Zaq Landsberg, left, poses next to a passport applicant.

Landsberg said he relies on help from "homies" in Utah to repaint and fix the features and infrastructure of Zaqistan. The remote setting presents its own challenges for maintenance, he said, compounded by the practical realities of traveling between Utah's west desert and his artistic base in New York City.

"If someone vandalizes it, I have to deal with it," he said. "Like, how do you make this more fiendishly complicated? When the roof for the customs building blows off and into the desert, I need to find somebody who's going to go there, either to find it and replace it, or to design something to keep it from doing that. And it's a situation in which the roof of the customs booth is not the most important thing in terms of my art career, it's not the thing that I'm going to sell. But that's [still] my career. And people have a really intense connection to it."

Micro Movement
Mike Abu is one of those people with a connection to Zaqistan as one of the aforementioned homies who occasionally assist with the nation's upkeep. A writer and artist—and, as careful readers of City Weekly will note, creator of the Great Salt Lake Salt Drink at Junior's Tavern downtown—Abu is a local ambassador for Zaqistan. Sporting the official title of "representative," Abu handles things like publicity in and around Salt Lake City. He's also organized a Zaqistani walking troop for the annual Utah Pride Parade.

If you catch him with a typewriter (or if you personally provide him with one), he can secure you a Zaqistan passport or citizenship papers, giving you membership in an international community of Zaqistanis.

Zaqistan’s Decennial Monument, constructed in 2015. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Zaqistan’s Decennial Monument, constructed in 2015.

"The place looks and feels as if it had been created by a modern-day Don Quixote, but, in reality, it is the product of someone who would have made an adept administrator if he hadn't also been a talented artist," Abu wrote in a 2015 piece for Vice. In describing the art project, he noted: "We appreciated the slight bump, maybe 5 feet tall, that [Landsberg] called 'Mount Insurmountable,' but most of our attention was drawn towards the imposing, robot-adorned metalwork under construction in the middle of what he described as the city center, an area that consisted of sculpture and little else."

What draws Abu and others to the project is always somewhat personal, even idiosyncratic. That starts with Landsberg's initial choices. At the very beginning of the Zaqistan project, he could have simply bought the land and created a sculpture park in the middle of nowhere. That's one level of commitment. But in deciding to name it and go through the mechanics of creating a micronation, he tapped into a movement that's seen some mild growth over the past few years. He found new eyes, ears and interest.

A man celebrates his Zaqistani dual-citizenship. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • A man celebrates his Zaqistani dual-citizenship.

Though micronations have been cropping up since Sealand's establishment off the coast of Great Britain in the 1960s, they've been arriving with increased regularity of late. In fact, a decent number of micronationalists gathered in Joliet, Illinois, during the last weekend of June—the Chicago exurb seeing an influx of folks representing micro-nations, mostly from the U.S., Canada and Europe (see "Head of State" below).

Among the attendees was Landsberg, who was joined by a couple of photographers and an audio team from I Heart Radio. Together, they were capturing stories from attendees for a possible podcast about the movement.

It should be said, the micronationalist convention—or MicroCon—is not to be mistaken for a get-together of sovereign citizens. Mind you, it's a fair assumption at first glance; a lot of the folks at MicroCon's conferences wear the garb of monarchs or paramilitary chieftains. Others, like Landsberg, wear simple clothing and don't stress faux-diplomacy, declarations of war or the granting of medals.

In Formality
When Landsberg offered gifts to MicroCon's attendees, they came from a suitcase full of Utah rocks, bundled into red mini-satchels. The whimsy of Zaqistan is wrapped in a different aesthetic than many of its contemporaries.

Landsberg said the effort he puts into representing a fictional nation shows how much of a "nerd" he really is, particularly when compared to the high-dollar art commissions he's competing for around the country.

"It makes me uncomfortable—like, the point where I'm stamping the [Zaqistan] seal onto all of these miniature bags," he said. "Economically, this makes no business sense, and I mean that."

While his MicroCon peers make claims of sovereignty to varying degrees of seriousness, Landsberg said he's tried to minimize the "jokes-per-minute" while still keeping a healthy attitude about both his project and the broader micronational community.

"The goofiness is something that I think I've expunged from Zaqistan, and we deliver it with a straight face," he said. "Not to say it's dead serious—but the humor is deadpan."

Zak Landsberg, center, Mike Abu, left, and other Zaqistanis in the Utah Pride Parade. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Zak Landsberg, center, Mike Abu, left, and other Zaqistanis in the Utah Pride Parade.

While Landsberg doesn't live in Salt Lake City, he's been through town enough over the years to know that Zaqistan's become something of a known commodity—at least within certain circles. Whether it's folks texting him for directions or shouting encouragement to the Pride Parade crew, there's enough feedback to let him know that his time, money and efforts have registered

"You've got to convince your homies to do something crazy," he said. "That's a core element of it. You can't just copy and paste this. You've got to work on it, like anything."

Landsberg mused that if a patron were to wear a Zaqistan lapel pin into a typical "hipster bar" in Salt Lake City, there's likely to be at least one person who will give a head nod or some other form of recognition.

It may not seem like much for a nation nearing its 20th anniversary but for a micronationalist, even a micro-compliment can go a long way.

Abu told City Weekly that he stays involved with Zaqistan because he's "stupid," and because he appreciates the culture that has been created around the project. People who are super left-wing or super right-wing can both appreciate the micronation movement, he said.

  • Courtesy Photo

"I like being able to not change the world, but ... to give it a little push," Abu said. "Zaq and I are responsible for keeping the project alive, and it's outgrown us. Like, if the two of us died, Zaqistan would still exist and that's because we created it and put in the effort. That's an important thing."

For more detailed information on the Republican of Zaqistan, visit the website: Or, follow the micronation on Instagram @zaqistanrepublic for more frequent updates, including details relating to September's site visit.

Clearfield resident Kathy Snook is the ‘governess’ of a microstate. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Clearfield resident Kathy Snook is the ‘governess’ of a microstate.

Head of State
Visitors to Snooklyn, Slowjamastan, should pack lime and salt but leave their Crocs at home.
By Thomas Crone

Last year, Kathy Snook attended MicroCon at an old-school, off-Strip hotel called Sam's Town in Las Vegas. There, she joined a gathering of micronationalists in a city that barely registered the presence of 100-something folks dedicated to examining the very idea of nations and nationalism.

Some of those people are intentional about rethinking the world and their place in it, while others are building art projects. A decent number hew the line between serious and not serious at all.

See: Slowjamastan.

Snook—a resident of Clearfield who works in Salt Lake City—was in Las Vegas in 2022 as a guest of The United Territories of the Sovereign Nation of The People's Republic of Slowjamastan, a micronation located in a desolate zone of California desert near the ever-shrinking Salton Sea, only 39 miles north of the Mexican border.

Kathy Snook, center,  and Randy ‘R Dub’ Williams, aka The Sultan of Slowjamistan, left, at MicroCon. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Kathy Snook, center, and Randy ‘R Dub’ Williams, aka The Sultan of Slowjamistan, left, at MicroCon.

Her friend—the syndicated radio host Randy "R Dub" Williams—is Slowjamastan's founder and supreme leader, aka The Sultan. And at the 2022 event, Snook told the Sultan that she'd buy a state within Slowjamastan's borders if she was able to win big in Vegas' gaming rooms.

She played, and she won. Then she kept her word, purchasing the rights to Snooklyn, one of 12 microstates within the confines of the wink-and-nod micronation of Slowjamastan.

There, Crocs are banned, wild raccoons are the national animal, and there's an actual border-crossing station (and sometimes, a fully branded fire truck and an online gift shop teeming with merchandise options).

As physical micronations go, Slowjamastan's got some things figured out, with an international following that's drawn into Williams' ... er, "The Sultan's" ... clever and regular promotion of this remote, off-road tourist attraction.

It's through his radio work that Snook met Williams, and they've held a long friendship since. As she learned more about Slowjamastan, she became more interested in the micronation movement and eventually started regularly attending events inside the actual Slowjamastan—all 11.07 acres of it.

Radio host Randy ‘R Dub’ Williams, center, founded Slowjamistan. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Radio host Randy ‘R Dub’ Williams, center, founded Slowjamistan.

Snook's day job is in the medical device industry, and she works with organizations that go into prisons and teach positive decision-making skills to the incarcerated. "I do that all across California," she said, "so it makes it convenient that I'm in California a lot."

Snook speaks of her life as a series of happy accidents, bold moves and an interest in a host of different things. Regarding micronationalism, she said she went from zero knowledge to investing thousands of dollars for statehood in a nation that's something of a lark—but an amazing, creative and humorous lark, indeed.

As there are 12 states within the tiny confines of Slowjamastan—each with borders and signage—she has a notion of what her state, Snooklyn, stands for—love, manifest and create.

"I'm all about manifestation because with everything in my life, I pretty much manifested things to happen," Snook said. "I've created my own life. You know, I have quite an interesting life story."

Wild raccoons are a national symbol of Slowjamistan. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Wild raccoons are a national symbol of Slowjamistan.

She said that Snooklyn's story is ultimately one of teamwork, helping each other and being kind. It's also about free tequila.

"We like to have tequilas, so every time we're in my state, I make sure everybody has the tequila, and we all hang out," she said.

Responding to a request for comment on the impact of Snooklyn within the political ecosystem of Slowjamastan, The Sultan responded within minutes: "One of the biggest assets of our country is the fact that anyone and everyone can be a part of it, can have a piece of it ... if they are not wearing Crocs, of course!"

The Sultan said that "Governess" Snook had done a remarkable job creating her own state, from its "glorious" flag and logo to the vision and values it espouses.

"While Snooklyn falls in line with what Slowjamastan stands for, it also boasts its own identity and attributes, much of which includes tequila," he said. "Snookyln is a fine example of everything a state in Slowjamastan should be: fun, unique, full of surprises and Croc-free."

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