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Shkodër or Shkodra is a city located on Lake Scutari (Shkodra Lake) in northwestern Albania in the District of Shkodër, of which it is the capital. It is one of the oldest and most historic towns in Albania, as well as an important cultural and economic centre. Shkodër's estimated population as of 2004 is 90,000; if the surrounding region is included the population is 110,000.

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Shkodër was founded around the 4th century BC. This was the site of the Illyrian tribe Labeates as well as the capital of the kingdom of King Gentius and that of Queen Teuta. In the year 168 BC, the city was taken by the Romans and it became an important trade and military route.

The dawn of the Middle ages saw waves of Slavs arriving. De Administrando Imperio describes how Byzantine Emperor Heraclius gave the Serbs the city of Shkodër and the surrounding territories of during the first half of the 7th century. They soon formed the Principality of Duklja there. Shkodër was a major city of the medieval Slav state. Duklja was subjected to its northern neighbor, the Principality of Rascia, forming the Grand Principality of Rascia. Its rulers recognized Bulgarian Czars as their supreme rulers during the first half of the 10th century. Soon Grand Prince Èaslav Klonimir of the House of Voislav gained control of the local Serbian lands previously under Byzantine and Bulgarian rule. Shkodër soon became Duklja's capital during the reign of Saint John Vladimir in the second half of the 10th century who defended the city from the menacing Arbanass tribes. John had to briefly surrender Duklja to the Bulgarian Czar from Macedonia Samuil. The Byzantines later incorporated the region directly into their empire, forming the theme of Serbia governed by strategos Constantine Diogenes. Stefan Voislav from Travunia expelled the last strategos of Serbia Theophilos Erotikos and fought the Byzantines successfully during the first half of the 11th century, keeping its independence. He won the city from the Romei circa 1040. It soon became a major city of a revived Duklja. King Constantin Bodin of Duklja and Dalmatia accepted the crusaders of the Crusade of 1101 in Shkodër. After numerous dynastic struggles, Shkodër become a part of Zeta, an entity subjected to the Grand Principality of Rascia in the 12th century. It later fell to the hands of the House of Balšiæ followed afterwards by the Dukagjini control who surrendered the city to the Venetian rule, forming a coalition against the Ottoman Empire with many neighboring Albanian tribes.
Shkodër and surrounding area
Shkodër and surrounding area
15th to 19th centuries
Shkodër resisted two major Ottoman attacks, in 1474 and 1478-1479, under the leadership of Lekë Dukagjini (who became leader of the Albanian resistance following the death of Skanderbeg in 1468), when the city was entirely surrounded by Ottoman forces. It fell under Turkish rule after a heroic struggle in 1479. After the Turkish occupation the city was devastated, and a large number of the population fled. Around the 17th century, the city began to prosper and it became the center of a sanjak, an Ottoman administrative unit smaller than a vilayet. It became the economic center of northern Albania, its craftsmen producing fabric, silk, arms, and silver artifacts. Construction included two-story stone houses, the bazaar, and the Central or Middle Bridge (Ura e Mesit) over the Kir river, built during the second half of the 18th century, over 100 meters long, with 13 arcs of stone, the largest one being 22 meters wide and 12 meters tall. .

In the 18th century Shkodër became the center of the (pashaluk) of Shkodër, under the rule of the Bushati family, which ruled from 1757 to 1831. After the fall of the pashaluk, the people of Shkodër had a number of uprisings against the Ottomans (1833-1836, 1854, 1861-1862, and 1869).

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During World War I, Montenegrin forces again entered Shkodër on June 27th 1915. In January 1916, Shkodër was captured by Austria-Hungary and was the center of the zone of their occupation. After World War I, the international military administration of Albania was temporarily located in Shkodër, and in March, 1920, Shkodër was put under the administration of the national government of Tirana. In the second half of 1920, Shkodër resisted another threat, the military intervention of the forces of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Shkodër was the center of democratic movements of the years 1921-1924. The democratic opposition won the majority of votes for the Constitutional Assembly, and on May 31st, 1924, the democratic forces took over the town and from Shkodër headed to Tirana. From 1924 to 1939, Shkodër had a slow industrial development, small factories that produced food, textile, and cement were opened. From 43 of such in 1924, the number rose to 70 in 1938. In 1924, Shkodër had 20,000 inhabitants, the number grew to 29,000 in 1938.

Shkodër was the seat of the Catholic archbishopric and had a number of religious schools. The first laic school was opened here in 1913, and the State Gymnasium was opened in 1922. It was the center of many cultural associations, such as "Vllaznia".

During the early 1990s, Shkodër was once again a major center, this time of the democratic movement that finally brought to an end the communist regime established by Enver Hoxha.

  • Last visit to Shkoder: Dec 2003
  • Intro Updated Nov 17, 2006
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