Shkodër or Shkodra historically known as Scutari or Scodra, is a city in the Republic of Albania. The city is one of the most ancient cities in the Balkans and the fourth most populous city in the country and exerts strong influences in culture, religion, arts and entertainment of northern Albania.
Geographically, the city of Shkodër sprawls across the ‘Mbishkodra‘ plain between the freshwater marshlands of Lake Shkodër and the foothills of the Albanian Alps. Like most of the Dinaric Alps, the mountains are dominated by limestone and dolomite rocks.
The city is trapped on three sides by the rivers Kir in the east, Drin in the south and Buna in the west.
Lake Shkodër lies in the west of the city and forms the frontier of Albania and Montenegro. The lake, named after the city of Shkodër, is the largest lake in Southern Europe close to the Adriatic Sea and an important habitat for various animal and plant species.The lake became the symbol of the stable and consistent economic and social divide of the city.
The earliest signs of human activity in the lands of Shkodër can be traced back to the Bronze Age.The favorable conditions on the fertile plain, around the lake, have brought people here from early antiquity.
Artefacts and inscriptions, discovered in the Rozafa Castle, are assumed to be the earliest examples of symbolic behaviour in humans in the city. Although, it was known under the name Scodra and was inhabited by the Illyrian tribe of the Ardiaei, which ruled over a large territory between modern Albania up to Croatia.Queen Teuta, King Agron, and King Gentius, were among the most famous personalities of the Labeates.
The city was first mentioned during the antiquity as the site of the Illyrian Labeates in which he minted coins and that of Queen Teuta.
In 168 BC, the city was captured by the Romans and became an important trade and military route. The Romans colonized the town. Scodra remained in the province of Illyricum, and later Dalmatia.
By it 395 AD, it was part of the Diocese of Dacia, within Praevalitana.
During the first half of the 7th century fell into the hands of the Serbs.Later it fell into the hands of the Bulgarians and then again of the Byzantines.
In the 1030s, Stefan Vojislav from Travunija expelled the last strategos and successfully defeated the Byzantines by 1042. Stefan Vojislav set up Shkodër, as his capital.Constantine Bodin accepted the crusaders of the Crusade of 1101 in Shkodër. After the dynastic struggles in the 12th century, Shkodër became an integral part of the Nemanjic Zeta province. In 1214 the city was briefly annexed to Despotate of Epirus under Michael I Komnenos Doukas.
In 1330, Stefan Decanski appointed his son Stefan Dušan as the governor of Zeta with its seat in Shkodër. In the same year Dušan and his father entered the conflict which resulted with campaign of Decanski who destroyed Dušan’s court on Drin River near Shkodër in January 1331. In April 1331, they made a truce,but in August 1331 Dušan went from Shkodër to Nerodimlje and overthrew his father.During the desintegration of the Serbian Empire, Shkodër was taken by the Balšic family of Zeta, who surrendered the city to the Republic of Venice in 1396, in order to form a protection zone from the Ottoman Empire. During the Venetian rule the city adopted the Statutes of Scutari, a civic law written in Venetian. Venetians built the St. Stephen’s Church (later converted into the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque by the Turks) and the Rozafa Castle. In 1478-79 Mehmed the conqueror laid siege on Shkodër. In 1479 the city fell to the Ottomans and the defenders of the citadel emigrated to Venice, while many Albanians from the region retreated into the mountains. The city then became a seat of a newly established Ottoman sanjak, the Sanjak of Scutari.
-During the Balkan Wars, Shkodër went from one occupation to another, when the Ottomans were defeated by the Kingdom of Montenegro.
The Ottoman forces led by Hasan Riza Pasha and Esad Pasha had resisted for seven months the surrounding of the town by Montenegrin forces and their Serbian allies. Esad (Hasan had previously been mysteriously killed by Esad Pasha Toptani in an ambush inside the town) finally surrendered to Montenegro in April 1913, after Montenegro suffered a high death toll with more than 10,000 casualties.
Montenegro was compelled to leave the city to the new country of Albania in May 1913, in accordance with the London Conference of Ambassadors.
-During World War I, Montenegrin forces again occupied Shkodër on June 27, 1915. In January 1916, Shkodër was taken over by Austria-Hungary and was the center of the zone of their occupation. When the war ended on 11 November 1918, French forces occupied Shkodër as well as other regions with sizable Albanian populations. 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.
The city and the surrounding area are blessed with a large variety of natural and cultural elements. The most attractive quarters of the city are commonly thought to be Pjaca, identifiable as the main city centre between statues of Mother Teresaand Luigj Gurakuqi, and Gjuhadol, the neighborhood around one of the most scenic streets connecting the Cathedral on the east side of town with the middle of the city.
The most recognizable memorial is the legendary Castle of Rozafa known also as Rozafati.
Lake of Shkodër is the largest lake in South Europe. It is a major summer attraction for tourists and inhabitants. Another interesting historical site is the ruins of Shurdhah (Sarda), a medieval town situated only 15 kilometres (9 miles) from Shkodër.
To go out there you must take a motor-boat from the dam of Vau i Dejës out to the island where Shurdhah is located (about 10 miles, or 16 km). Shurdhah was built atop a hill on the island, roughly 5 ha in area, surrounded by the waters of the Drini river (which has been rerouted now to form an artificial lake). At one time it was the summer retreat of the famous Dukagjini Family. About 5 km (3 mi) east of Shkodër lies the medieval citadel of Drisht.Many visitors feel that Shkodër is the soul of Albania. The very characteristic appearance of the city is formed by the juxtaposition of ancient houses and narrow streets joined with stone walls and modern buildings.
After World War II, some of Shkodër was rebuilt with wider streets to accommodate automotive traffic, and new residential buildings are being constructed all the time.
The Rozafa Castle
The Mes Bridge
The Lead Mosque
The Ebu Beker Mosque
The St Stephen Cathedral
The Shkodër Orthodox Cathedral.