New Yorker Zaq Landsberg Creates His Own Country Called Zaqistan in Remote Utah Desert – But He Doesn't Live There
"The government isn't recognizing Zaqistan sovereignty, but they're not stopping me from doing my thing out here either," Zaq Landsberg tells PEOPLE
Ana Fisyak recently applied for citizenship in Zaqistan – a two-acre slice of desolation in remote northwestern Utah with no roads, no water, no shelter and no Starbucks.
The later could pose a problem for Fisyak, 30, a certified “city girl” from Brooklyn who works as an urban planner and visited the sagebrush-covered desert last month with her boyfriend, Zaq Landsberg, founder of Zaqistan and the sovereign nation’s “president.”
“We made our own coffee, cooked rice and beans, saw plenty of scorpions and slept under the stars,” Fisyak, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I’d never seen the Milky Way before and that was incredible. But if my citizenship is approved, I’m not sure I’d want to live in Zaqistan. It’s like being on the moon.”
Her boyfriend concurs. “It’s pretty harsh – incredibly hot during day, cold at night, with gale force winds that come in occasionally,” Landsberg, 30, a Brooklyn sculptor, tells PEOPLE. “I’ve grown to like it, but it’s about as far way as you can get.”
Landsberg bought the remote acreage in Box Elder County in 2005 for $610 on eBay, put up a flag in the middle of the property so he could locate it on future visits, then decided, why not name the place Zaqistan? He now has an official yellow-and-red Zaqistan flag, a border patrol gate with a giant robot sentry and authentic-looking passports that can be purchased for $40 on his website.
His country also has an official motto: “Something from nothing.”
“When I bought the land,” he says, “it was right after Hurricane Katrina, and it was a pretty dark time, politically, in our country. I thought, ‘I can run a country better than these clowns.’ So I started creating something out of nothing in the desert. My ultimate goal is for Zaqistan to one day become a legitimate country.”
There are no buildings in Zaqistan, but Landsberg, who visits about once or twice a year, has created several monuments on his land, including a victory arch and a bed of plastic wildflowers. A geodesic dome vanished in 2009 and didn’t turn up until two years later – the victim of high winds.
Landsberg has no plans to build a cabin on the site since there is no water for miles and the nearest town, Montello, Nevada, is 60 miles away. But he and his girlfriend would like to build a front porch.
“It would be nice to have a porch and some rocking chairs – we’d be all set then,” Fisyak tells PEOPLE. “With beautiful sunrises and sunsets, that’s all we really need.”
Because Landsberg pays property taxes every year, declaring that his two acres is a sovereign nation probably isn’t illegal, according to officials. But they wonder why Landsberg is devoting so much time and energy to a plot of land that few people can locate.
“As this two-acre experiment continues, I urge President Landsberg to adopt baseball as his country’s national pastime,” Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who has Zaqistan in his district, jokingly tells PEOPLE. “The great sport of baseball has served America well, and it can do the same for Zaqistan. Few sports can unite the people of a fledgling nation like America’s pastime.”
The president of Zaqistan says he welcomes Bishop and others to question why he “went rogue.”
“Is Taiwan legally a country? Is the Vatican?” asks Landsberg. “Really, there is no legal standard for what is a country and what is not. I would describe Zaqistan as a de facto sovereign. The government isn’t recognizing Zaqistan sovereignty, but they’re not stopping me from doing my thing out here either.
“Nobody has hassled me,” he adds, “and one reason is because things are so spread out. I own a speck of desert in this vast desert where there’s no one.” He pauses and laughs. “They’d have to find me, first.”