Shkodra is a trading and industrial center of northern Albania. Manufactures include tobacco, textiles, cement, leather products, and building materials.
The city is dominated by a 15th-century Venetian citadel built on a hill.
In former times, Shkodra (pronounced: Shko-drah) was known as Scodra. It was founded around the 4th century B.C. on the hills around the Castle of Shkodra (Rozafa). It was the center of the Illyrian tribe Labeat, and during the rule of Gent it became the capital of the Illyrian kingdom. It was taken by the Romans in the year 168 B.C. One of the most important trade and military routes that came down from the northern part of the Balkan peninsula, passed through Shkodra, continuing to Kosova and further. In 1040, Shkodra was captured by the Serbs and became the center of Zeta. During the 14th century it became the center of the Balsha feudal family. In 1396 it was taken by the Venetians.
Shkodra resisted two major Ottoman attacks, in 1474 and 1478-1479, 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 the 'sanjak', Turkish administrative units smaller than 'vilayets'. It became the economic center of northern Albania, its craftsmen produced fabric, silk, arms, and silver artifacts. Two story stone houses were built, the bazaar, and the Bridge of Mesi (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 Shkodra became the center of the pashallek of Shkodra, under the rule of the Bushati family, which ruled from the year 1757 to 1831. After the fall of the pashallek, the people of Shkodra had a number of uprisings against the Ottomans, in the years 1833-1836, 1854, 1861-1862, and 1869.
Shkodra became an important trade center in the second half of the 19th century. Aside from being the center of the vilayet of Shkodra, it was an important trading center for the entire Bakan peninsula. It had over 3500 shops, and clothing, leather, tobacco, and gun powder were some of the major products of Shkodra. A special administration was established to handle trade, a trade court, and a directorate of postage services with other countries. Other countries had opened consulates in Shkodra ever since 1718. Obot and Ulqin served as ports for Shkodra, and later on Shėngjin. The Jesuit seminar and the Franciscan committee were opened in the 19th century.
Shkodra played an important role during the League of Prizren, the Albanian liberation movement. The people of Shkodra participated in battles to protect Albanian land. The branch of the League of Prizren for Shkodra, which had its own armed unit, fought for the protection of Plava and Gucia, Hoti and Gruda, and the war for the protection of Ulqin.
In the 19th century, Shkodra was also known as a cultural center. The Bushati Library, built during the 1840s, served as a center for the League of Prizren's branch for Shkodra. Many books were collected in libraries of Catholic missionaries working in Shkodra. Literary, cultural, and sports associations were formed, such as "Bashkimi" and "Agimi." The first Albanian newspapers and publications printed in Albania came out of the printing press of Shkodra. The Marubi family of photographers began working in Shkodra, which left behind over 150,000 negatives from the period of the Albanian liberation movement, the rise of the Albanian flag in Vlora, and life in Albanian towns during the end of the 19th and the begining of the 20th century.
During the Balkan Wars and World War I, Shkodra was sought by Montenegro and Serbia. The people of Shkodra had resisted for seven months the surrounding of the town by Serbian and Montenegrin armies. The occupiers finally entered the town in April, 1913, and severely damaged the town and set the bazaar on fire. The Serbian and Montenegrin armies were compelled to leave in May, 1913, in accordance with the London Conference of Ambassadors, which allotted Shkodra to the new country of Albania.
During World War I, Montenegrin forces once again entered Shkodra on June 27th, 1915. In January of 1916, Shkodra 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 Shkodra, and in March, 1920, Shkodra was put under the administration of the national government of Tirana. In the second half of 1920, Shkodra resisted another threat, the military intervention of the forces of the Yugoslav kingdom.
Shkodra was 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 Shkodra headed to Tirana. From 1924 to 1939, Shkodra 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, Shkodra had 20,000 inhabitants, the number grew to 29,000 in 1938.
Shkodra was the seat of the Catholic archiepiscopacy 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".
Shkodra was a major center of the democratic movement of 1990 and 1991. Many demonstrations and clashes with the police occurred here, when the population demanded an end to the brutal communist regime of Albania. Shkodra is one of the major industrial centers of Albania. The mechanical and electronic industries are the most developed, preceding are the food and building materials industries. Some of the major manufacturing facilities are the factory of electric wires and cables, wood processing plants, factories of leather and clothing, tobacco, and food.
Shkodra is a major cultural center of Albania. The University "Luigj Gurakuqi" has several branches. The main library has over 250,000 titles. The Cultural Center, the branch of the Artists and Writers Association, and the "Migjeni" Theater are other major cultural institutions of Shkodra. The Museum of History, Museum of Education, the House of the Shkodra Branch of the League of Prizren, the Gallery of Arts, are some of the museums of Shkodra.
The city retains its characteristic appearance, with narrow streets with tall stone walls on both sides, and tall gates, but a large part of it has been transformed after World War II, with straight wide streets and tall residential and public buildings. The city expanded with several new quarters, and the industrial zone was built north of the city.
Some of the cultural monuments of Shkodra are the Castle of Shkodra (Rozafa), the Turkish Bath (hamam), the Mosque of Plumbi, and many old houses with an appearance characteristic to Shkodra. The city lies next to the lake and the residents use te beach of Shiroka for recreation. Population (1990 estimate) 81,900.