There’s more to micronations than lunacy
Zaq Landsberg, a New Yorker from Salt Lake City, is establishing his own sovereign nation on a desolate piece of land in Utah’s hinterlands. His nation, called Zaqistan, has a flag, a motto, passports, a supply bunker, and a border patrol gate (manned by a robot). The exact location of the ‘nation’ is still a secret, which is part of the reason Landsberg purchased the 4-acre piece of land for development- to have his own private spot. He also claims that he does not want people getting lost trying to find it.
Self–proclaimed President Landsberg acquired the property about ten years ago, and pays taxes for it – which he calls tributes – to Box Elder County. The payments are part of his efforts to grant the nation legitimacy, which he also tries to achieve by having his ‘passports’ stamped at the border upon the entry and exit of visitors, who are primarily his friends.
Zaqistan was developed so Landsberg could have a place to escape to, and is not an actual country. According to Landsberg, his project is an artistic approach to explore notions of land ownership and sovereignty. Although he realises that his little country is unlikely to receive official recognition from the United States and the international community, he still hopes for the possibility.
Zaq Landsberg is not the first person to attempt to build a sovereign nation of this nature (known as micronations) based on a personal need or desire. Micronations are commonly attributed to eccentricity of either or person or a small group of individuals, and are usually not taken seriously, except in rare cases. Despite failing to gain diplomatic and international recognition, they continue to grow in popularity.
Earlier this year in April, Vit Jedlicka, a Czech politician and anti–EU activist created Liberland, a new European country. It is located on the western bank of the Danube River, between Serbia and Croatia, an area which is a source of dispute between both countries. The Free Republic of Liberland is established to serve as home to honest people who can prosper without the interference of a centralised government, and it is meant to be tax–free. As of July, about 400,000 people applied for citizenship, but it will only be open to about 30,000 residents upon completion.
In June of last year, Jeremiah Heaton, an American citizen from Virginia, laid claim to one of the last pieces of unoccupied land on earth in Africa, and proceeded to establish the Kingdom of North Sudan, after erecting a flag, which he renamed the strip of land formerly known as Bir Tawil. The 800-square mile desert is located in the area along the Sudanese border and the Nile’s coast along the Red Sea.
Heaton’s quest began when his daughter requested that he make her a real princess, and he could not refuse. He intends to pursue recognition from African countries, starting with Sudan and Egypt, with the help of the African Union, in order to make the claim to his kingdom legitimate. However, this far his queries have largely been ignored.
However, not all micronations have been entirely unsuccessful in their quest for recognition and respect, even though none have successfully become sovereign states. The Principality of Hutt River is recognised as a location to register universities, as well as incorporate a company. Also, there are arguments that Singapore is an example of a very successful micronation. Despite being kicked out from Malaysian Federation, it managed to form what was once a poor nation in 1965, and is presently a developed country, earning as much as $300 billion as GDP annually by 2013.
Sealand is another example of a ‘micronation, which attained sovereignty in international waters from the UK, following a period of struggle which culminated in a court decision that granted its independence. Popularly, Sealand’s recognition is commonly attributed to 1978 when a German diplomat visited the ‘country’ to directly negotiate the release of a German lawyer who was imprisoned there.