League of Lezhë
The League of Lezhë (Albanian: Besëlidhja e Lezhës) was a military alliance of Albanian feudal lords forged in Lezhë on 2 March 1444, with Skanderbeg as leader of the regional Albanian and Serbian chieftains united against the Ottoman Empire. Skanderbeg was proclaimed "Chief of the League of the Albanian people".
|League of Lezhë|
Besëlidhja e LezhësParticipant in Albanian–Venetian War
|Area of operations||Albania Veneta|
Sanjak of Albania
Sanjak of Dibra
Venice (Dec. 1447–Oct. 48)
|Battles and war(s)||See list|
The main members of the league were the Arianiti, Balšić, Zaharia, Muzaka, Spani, Thopia and Crnojevići. The members contributed to the League with men and money, while Skanderbeg had no right to interfere with the affairs of their domains. All earlier and many modern historians accepted Marin Barleti's news about this meeting in Lezhë (without giving it equal weight), although no contemporary Venetian document mentions it. Barleti referred to the meeting as the generalis concilium or universum concilium ("general council" or "whole council"); the term "League of Lezhë" was coined by subsequent historians.
After the death of Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan in 1355, the magnates in Albania established their own dominions. When Ottoman forces entered Albania, they were faced with small principalities that were engaged in vicious fights among themselves. The first battle against the Ottoman forces in Albania was that of Balša II, the Lord of Zeta, when one of the Albanian rulers, Karlo Thopia, invited Ottomans who defeated and killed Balša II in the battle of Savra which happened on the 18th September 1385.
In the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire established itself in the Balkans with no significant resistance offered by local Christian nobles. Many of them were still fighting amongst themselves and didn't see the Ottoman advance as a threat to their power. Although a civil war broke out between Bayezid I's sons in 1402–13, none of the Christian noblemen in the Balkans at the time seized the opportunity to repel the Ottomans; on the contrary, Bulgarians, Serbs and Hungarians even helped the future Sultan Mehmed I seize power, by participating as his allies in the final battle against his brother. After the Ottoman civil war was over in favour of Mehmed I, his forces captured Kruja from the Thopia in 1415, Berat in 1417 from the Muzaka, Vlora and Kanina in 1417 from the widow of Balša III and Gjirokastër in 1418 from the Zenevisi. Under pressure from the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice, the Albanian principalities began to vacillate. Some Albanian nobility revolted in 1432–36.
In November 1443, Skanderbeg captured Kruja with his troops and declared its independence from the Sultan.
The League of Lezhë was founded on 2 March 1444 by:
- Lekë Zaharia (lord of Sati and Dagnum), and his vassals Pal and Nicholas Dukagjini
- Peter Spani (lord of the mountains behind Drivasto)
- Lekë Dushmani (lord of Minor Pult)
- George Strez, John and Gojko Balšić (lords of Misia, between Kruja and Alessio)
- Andrea Thopia (lord of Scuria, between Tirana and Durazzo) with his nephew Tanush
- Gjergj Arianiti
- Theodor Corona Musachi
- Stefan Crnojević (lord of Upper Zeta)
Delegates from Venice were present at the meeting. The military alliance was made up of the feudal lords in Albania, who had to contribute to the League with men and money. Skanderbeg was proclaimed "Chief of the League of the Albanian people". Thus, he was the League's leader and commander-in-chief of its combined armed forces numbering 8,000 warriors. All the territorial lords had their own domains and affairs; "Skanderbeg had no right to interfere with the affairs of the domains of other nobles", acting only as the supreme military leader, as primus inter pares. Barleti referred to the meeting as the generalis concilium or universum concilium ("general council" or "whole council"); the term "League of Lezhë" was coined by subsequent historians.
On 4 October 1448, the Albanian–Venetian War ended when Skanderbeg and Nicholas Dukagjini signed a peace treaty with Venice, which would keep its possessions in Albania, including Dagnum, under the conditions that Venice pay a yearly sum of 1,400 ducats, and that some league members would benefit from certain trade privileges, etc.
Dissolution and aftermathEdit
The alliance was precarious. Though an official date of dissolution is unknown, the League of Lezhë fragmented soon after its founding, with many of its members breaking away. By 1450 it had certainly ceased to function as originally intended, and only the core of the alliance under Skanderbeg and Arianiti continued to fight against the Ottomans. Some members preferred to act in line with their own intereststs. During the attack of the sultan in 1450, they kept changing their position between supporting the Ottomans and joining Skanderbeg. After Peter Spani and George Dushmani left the alliance, and after the Arianiti and Dukagjini left it in 1450, members of Dukagjini family concluded peace with the Ottoman Empire and even began to plot against Skanderbeg.
For 25 years, from 1443–68, Skanderbeg's 10,000 man army marched through Ottoman territory winning against consistently larger and better supplied Ottoman forces. Threatened by Ottoman advances in their homeland, Hungary, and later Naples and Venice – their former enemies – provided the financial backbone and support for Skanderbeg's army. After Skanderbeg's death in 1468, the sultan "easily subdued Albania," but Skanderbeg's death did not end the struggle for independence.
The League of Lezhë was the basis for an Albanian state. The formation of the League meant that for the first time Albania was united under an Albanian leader. Some historians regard the League as an independent Albanian state. Others do not accept this view, saying that it was only a military league. However, the League provided the basic elements of Albanian unity.
Skanderbeg and the League of Lezhë have become part of Albanian historiography. That period of history, categorized as a pre-communist time, is seen by many as mythical and unchallengeable. In these cases, struggles against Ottoman and other foreign powers, and processes of national self-definition support the ideological framework linked with that period.
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... a solid military alliance was concluded among all the Albanian and Serbian chieftains along the Adriatic coast from southern Epirus to the Bosnian border.
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Мада ниједан савремени млетачки документ не помиње овај скуп, сви старији и многи новији историчари прихватили су Барлецијеве вести не придајући им, разуме се, исти значај.
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...the Ottomans supported Lord Carlo Thopia against Balsha II, defeating the latter...
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...In 1385, Khaireddin pasha... was invited by Charles Thopia, lord of Durazzo, to aid him in a war against Balsa...
- Sedlar 1994, p. 264.
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Nikola und Paul Dukagjin, Leka Zaharia von Dagno, Peter Span, Herr der Berge hinter Drivasto, Georg Strez Balsha sowie Johann und Gojko Balsha, die sich zwischen Kruja und Alessio festgesetzt hatten, die Dushman von Klein-Polatum sowie Stefan (Stefanica) Crnojevic, der Herr der Oberzeta
- Noli 1947, p. 36
Andrea Thopia of Scuria between Tirana and Durazzo with his nephew, Tanush Thopia
- Sedlar 1994
Even this was loose association of the territorial lords who felt free to go their own way if they so choose. The League functioned only in military domain, never as government, although it did provide the first rudiments of Albanian unity.
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Scanderbeg too kept his domain. As president of the League he was merely primus inter pares. He had no right to interfere with the affairs of the domains of other nobles.
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Skanderbeg, der scheinbar dabei war, seine Rolle als primus inter pares zu verlassen und sich zum Herren des ganzen nichtosmanischen Albanien zu machen, stieß auf zunehmenden Widerstand.
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With this network of treaties, the League of Alessio was placed under King Alphonse V, with Skenderbeg as Captain General.78 When Musachi Thopia was apparently reluctant to collaborate with Skenderbeg, the King of Naples reminded him ...
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In Albania the Ottomans continued to be confronted by Skanderbeg and feudal lords who in 1444 had formed the League of Alessio (Lezha). Yet this was a precarious alliance and ...
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Por të pafuqishëm për t'i bërë ballë fuqisë së Skënderbeut, si rrugëdalje ata gjetën shkëputjen nga Lidhja. Të parët që ndërmorën një veprim të tillë ishin Pjetër Spani dhe Gjergj Dushmani.
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- [https://rep.adw-goe.de/bitstream/handle/11858/00-001S-0000-002C-DC81-7/9783110253047_AdW12_05_ARMIN%20HETZER%20%20Die%20Funktion%20des%20Skanderbeg-Mythos.pdf?sequence=1 ARMIN HETZER "Die Funktion des Skanderbeg-Mythos für die nationale Identität der Albaner Vom Athleta Christi zum Garanten des laizistischen Staates", in "Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen Neue Folge", Band 12, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG: Berlin (2011), p. 108]: "In der modernen albanischen Geschichtsschreibung wird mit dieser Liga der Begriff eines „ersten albanischen Staates“ verknüpft und in der westlichen Barletius-Rezeption spricht man ziemlich maßlos vom Königreich Albanien. Tatsächlich war Georg Kastriota zu keinem Zeitpunkt mehr als der Führer eines Zweckbündnisses, ein Primus inter pares. Ein einheitliches albanisches Staatsgebilde hat es vor 1912 nie gegeben und der 1430‒31 gebildete Sancak-i Arvanit umfasste nur den Süden des Landes mit dem Zentrum Gjirokastra (türk. Ergeri, griech. Argyrokastron)."
- Jean W Sedlar, "East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500", University of Washington Press, 1994, p. 26: "Even this was loose association of the territorial lords who felt free to go their own way if they so choose. The League functioned only in military domain, never as government, although it did provide the first rudiments of Albanian unity."
- Marii͡a Nikolaeva Todorova (2004). Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 104.
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