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C - 28 : The Time before Albania

Long before Albania became an independent Kingdom in 1912, there was Albania Veneta, a geographical term, which the Serene Republic used for all its possessions south of the independent Republic of Ragusa (today's Dubrovnik).

Albania Veneta in 1488


Whilst the name implies that these territories were governed under one single administration, the opposite was true. In all important towns there was a Venetian representative with often rather confusing titles. These positions were held y the members of Venice's ruling families. The rivalry between these representatives made the coordination of military matters often challenging.

Albania Veneta before 1479 also included the southern territories of Vloré (Valona - to the very right of this map - we will be there on the 28th July on our way to Durres). These lands however were lost to the advancing Turks who also conquered Durres in 1501.


Venice and the Ottomans were interested in Albania for strategic reasons only. Venice was interested in securing the few safe harbours (Kotor, Budva, Ulcinj, Durres and Vloré) along a coast that is dominated by alluvial plains with shallow, treachery beaches - but today full of deck chairs for European tourists hungry for sun. The only safe harbour to the north was Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and Corfu to the south with its mighty fortress.

The nicely restored Venetian Sea Tower in Durres


The Ottoman Turks came to Albania to protect the mountain passes leading from the Adria to Istanbul (Via Egnatia). The Ottomans were remarkably good in remembering the strategic lessons from the Roman Empire. Once in Albania, they also realised how dependent Venice was on controlling the ports on these coasts. Turkey could thus put a nose on the maritime traffic of the Venetians and strangle its source of wealth at discretion. Economic warfare was not only invented in the 21st century. More about this in my next blog.

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