A Shkodra street
Shkodra, known as Scutari in
Italian, also known as Skadar
in Serbian and as Iskenderie in Turkish, is the regional
capital of northern Albania, and a very interesting city with
a long and often turbulent history, arising from its strategic
position on the Adriatic coast and the military importance of
its great citadel, Rozafat Castle.
It is the Albanian city which has always had the closest links
with Italy, both in terms of trade and culture. It is predominantly
Roman Catholic in religion, but with a substantial Muslim minority.
but although this has given Shkodra a Western oriention, and made
it in the past and present a centre of progressive thought and
new institutional development, the hinterland is the remote, barren
and primitive northern highlands, called the 'Land
of the Living Past' by Edith Durham, the English traveller of the
There have been
many traces of prehistoric occupation found in the region. In
Illyrian times the city was founded by the Labeates
at the beginning of the last millennium BC, then take over by
the Ardiaean tribe in the 3 century BC. In the 3rd century BC
the area was the seat of a powerful Illyrian kingdom with a bad
reputation for piracy, founded by King Agron, and stretching from
Lake Shkodra to the Gulf of Kotor - which led to prolonged conflict
with the Romans. Genthius, the last king of the Ardiaeans, and
of Illyria, was drawn into conflict with Rome by Perseus. The
city was then assigned to the area of the Labeates. The Roman
town that was established passed to the Byzantines, followed by
a period of Slav occupation from 1040 to 1355. It was taken by
the Venetians in 1396, who built the stronghold at Rozafa,
on the foundation of earlier fortications. In 1473 Rozafa was
attacked by Suleiman Pasha and his Turkish troops.
A Turkish bridge near Shkodra,
similar to the famous one which was destroyed at Mostar.
Shkodra became the centre of one
of the largest Sanjaks (Turkish provinces) in the Balkans
and its rulers began to show marked independence from Constantinople.
The first printing press in Albania was set up in Scutari in the
16 century. The feudal lord Mehmet Bey Bushati became Pasha in
1757, achieved great regional power and influence. The Bushati
family became 'Hereditary Pasha'. Their rule extended into
Kosova in the north-west and to Berati in
The first Albanian
newspaper to be printed in Albanian and Turkish was published
in the city in 1879. The city also became an important commercial
centre, and was the largest city in Albania. The Jesuits and Franciscans
opened schools at this time, under Vatican patronage.
The North Albanian Alps above Shkodra
Shkodra was the
birthplace of the poet Migjeni
- the founder of modern Albanian lyric poetry. Migjeni was the
pseudonym of Millosh Nikolla, a member of the Serbian minority
in the town.
A communist cell
was founded in Shkodra in 1934. The city suffered badly under
communism and played a prominent part in the democratic movement
leading to the end of the one-party state in 1990-1991.
A Shkodra café
can be very pleasant in Spring or Autumn, Summer visits are recommended
but the town (like Venice) should be avoided by tourists in winter.
It can be very cold with thick fogs sweeping off the lake or freezing
cold north winds blowing off the Montenegrin mountains
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