Lekë Dukagjini

Lekë III Dukagjini (1410–1481), mostly known as Lekë Dukagjini, was a 15th-century member of the Albanian nobility, from the Dukagjini family.[1] A contemporary of Skanderbeg, Dukagjini is known for the Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit, a code of law instituted among the tribes of northern Albania.

Lekë III Dukagjini
Lekë Dukagjini (portret).jpg
Postcard illustration of Lekë Dukagjini holding the Kanun
PredecessorPal II Dukagjini
Died1481 (aged 71)
FatherPal II Dukagjini
ReligionChristian (Roman Catholic)


His name, Lekë, is an abbreviated version of Alexander.[2] Dukagjini's birthplace is thought to be in Mirdita. The Dukagjini principality stretched from Northern Albania and into modern Kosovo.[3][4] The western part of Kosovo, sometimes referred to as Rrafshi i Dukagjinit or Dukagjin, takes its name after the Dukagjini family. Until 1444 he was pronoier of Koja Zaharia.[5] He took over the county from his father Prince Pal Dukagjini in 1446, who appears to have died of apoplexy.[6]

Dukagjini fought under the command of Skanderbeg against the Ottomans during the last two years of the legendary war of Skanderbeg. During times of peace they also fought against one another, as Albanian loyalties came and went during that period of their history. Lekë Dukagjini ambushed and killed Lekë Zaharia Altisferi, prince of Dagnum. The two princes had been in dispute over who should marry Irene Dushmani. Irene was the only child of Lekë Dushmani, prince of Zadrima. In 1445, the Albanian princes had been invited to the wedding of Skanderbeg's younger sister, Mamica, who was being married to Muzaka Thopia. Irene entered the wedding and hostilities began.[7] Dukagjini asked Irene to marry him but Zaharia, drunk, saw this and assaulted Dukagjini. Some princes attempted to stop the fight, but only more people became involved, resulting in several deaths until peace was established.[8][9] Neither of the two antagonists had suffered any physical damage, but after the event Dukagjini was morally humiliated. Two years later, in 1447, in an act of revenge, Dukagjini ambushed and killed Zaharia. However, Original Venetian documents contradict this account by showing that this murder happened in 1444.[10] According to Venetian chronicler Stefano Magno it was Nicholas Dukagjin, Zaharia's vassal, who killed Lekë Zaharia in the battle, not Lekë as stated by Marin Barleti.[11]

Nonetheless, the death of Zaharia left his princedom with no successor, resulting in his mother handing the fortress over to Venetian Albania, a stretch of possessions of the Republic of Venice.[12][13][14] When Skanderbeg tried (unsuccessfully) to capture Dagnum in 1447 this began the Albanian–Venetian War (1447–1448). In March 1451 Lekë Dukagjini and Božidar Dushmani planned to attack Venetian controlled Drivast.[15] Their plot was discovered and Božidar was forced to flee into exile.[16] In 1459 Skanderbeg's forces captured the fortress of Sati from the Ottoman Empire and Skanderbeg ceded it to Venice in order to secure a cordial relationship with Signoria before he sent his troops to Italy to help King Ferdinand to regain and maintain his kingdom after the death of king Alfonso V of Aragon.[17][18] Before the Venetians took over the control of Sati, Skanderbeg captured it and the surrounding area, driving Lekë Dukagjini and his forces away, because he was opposed to Skanderbeg and destroyed Sati before the Venetian takeover.[19]

Dukagjini continued to fight with limited success against the Ottoman Empire, carrying on as the leader of the League of Lezhë after the death of Skanderbeg, until 1479. At times his forces united with the Venetians with the blessing of the Pope.


Lekë Dukagjini's coat of arms

The Law of Lek Dukagjini (kanun) was named after Lekë Dukagjini who codified the customary laws of the Albanian highlands.[20] Although researchers of history and customs of Albania usually refer to Gjeçovi's text of the Kanuni as the only existing version which is uncontested and written by Lekë Dukagjini, it was actually incorrect. The text of the Kanuni, often contested and with many different interpretations which significantly evolved since 15th century, was only named after Dukagjini.[21] Whilst identifying Skanderbeg as the "dragon prince" who dared to fight against any foe, chronicles portray Dukagjini as the "angel prince" who, with dignity and wisdom, ensured the continuity of the Albanian identity.

The set of laws were active in practice for a long time, but it was not gathered and codified until the late 19th century by Shtjefën Gjeçovi.[22][23] The most infamous laws of Kanuni are those regulating blood feuds. Blood feuds have started once again in northern Albania (and have since spread to other parts of Albania, and even to expatriates abroad) after the fall of communism in the early 1990s, having been outlawed for many years during the regime of Enver Hoxha, and contained by the relatively closed borders.

Dukagjini's military campaigns against the Ottomans had limited success; he also lacked the ability to unite the country and the Albanian people in the way that Skanderbeg had. Loyalties wavered, and splintered, betrayals were common, and Albania fell into complete submission to the Ottomans by the end of the 15th century.

Kanun of Lekë DukagjiniEdit

Overshadowed by the legend of Skanderbeg, Dukagjini is most well known for the set of laws ruling the highlands of northern Albania, known as the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini.

See AlsoEdit


  1. ^ Robert Elsie (1 January 2004). Historical Dictionary Of Kosovo. Scarecrow Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-8108-5309-6. Retrieved 9 June 2013. ... little-known and somewhat mysterious figure thought to have been a fifteenth-century prince
  2. ^ Malcolm, Noel (1998), Kosovo: a short history, New York: New York University Press, p. 17, ISBN 978-0-8147-5598-3, OCLC 37310785, Lek or Lekë being abbreviated form of Alexander
  3. ^ Sellers, Mortimer; Tomaszewski, Tadeusz (23 July 2010). The Rule of Law in Comparative Perspective. ISBN 9789048137497.
  4. ^ Warrander, Gail; Knaus, Verena (2007). Kosovo. ISBN 9781841621999.
  5. ^ Božić, Ivan (1979), Nemirno pomorje XV veka (in Serbian), Beograd: Srpska književna zadruga, p. 291, OCLC 5845972, велики пронијари Павле и Лека Дукађини
  6. ^ Demiraj, Shaban (1969). Gramatika e gjuhës shqipe. Enti i teksteve dhe i mjeteve mësimore i Krahinës Socialiste autonome të Kosovës. p. 101. Retrieved 2012-04-27.
  7. ^ Francione 2003, p. 61
  8. ^ Francione 2003, p. 62
  9. ^ Hodgkinson 1999, p. 83
  10. ^ Schmitt, Oliver Jens (2001), Das venezianische Albanien (1392-1479), München: R. Oldenbourg Verlag GmbH München, p. 300, ISBN 3-486-56569--9, In ein Aktenstück von Januar 1445 inseriert ist eine Urkunde des Skutariner Grafen Francesco Querini vom 18. Septembar 1443, in der Lekas witwe Bozha, seiner Tochter Bolja und derren sohnchen Koja einge Dorfer aus Lekas baština und eine pension...
  11. ^ Božić, Ivan (1979), Nemirno pomorje XV veka (in Serbian), Beograd: Srpska književna zadruga, p. 364, OCLC 5845972, Никола Дукађин убио је Леку Закарију. Према млетачком хроничару Стефану Мању убио га је "у битки" као његов вазал. Мада Барлеције погрешно наводи да је убиство извршио Лека Дукађин
  12. ^ Fine 1994, p. 557
  13. ^ Franco p. 84.
  14. ^ Hodgkinson 1999, pp. 83–84
  15. ^ Schmitt, Oliver Jens (2001), Das venezianische Albanien (1392-1479), München: R. Oldenbourg Verlag GmbH München, p. 308, ISBN 3-486-56569--9, retrieved 17 January 2012, Die eigene Herrschaft im Norden war nicht ungefährdet, wie die Aufdeckung eines Anschlags Božidar Dushmans und Leka Dukagjins gegen Drivasto erwies (Marz 1451),..
  16. ^ Bešić, Zarij M. (1970). Istorija Črne Gore, Volume 2, Part 2 (in Serbian). Titograd: Redakcija za istoriju Črne Gore. Retrieved 17 January 2012. У Дривасту je окупљао млетачке противнике Божидар Душман и, у спрези с Леком Дукађином, припремао побуну у граду и по селима. Завјера je откривена и Bијеће четрдесеторице осудило га je у марту 1451. год. на тридесетогодишње изгнанство с Млетачких поседа у Албанији
  17. ^ Gegaj, Athanase (1937), L'Albanie et l'Invasion turque au XVe siècle (in French), Universite de Louvain, p. 241, OCLC 652265147, En 1459, Scanderbeg occupa la ville de Sati (Sapa) et beaucoup d'autres localites. Bien qu'il eut enleve ces places aux Turcs, il se montra dispose a les ceder a la republique de Venise.
  18. ^ Noli, Fan Stilian (1947), George Castrioti Scanderbeg (1405–1468), International Universities Press, p. 65, OCLC 732882, After the death of Alphonse V rapprochement with Venice became a necessity. It came very slowly and painfully. In 1459 he returned the fortress of Sati to the Venetians though he had conquered it from the Turks.
  19. ^ Božić, Ivan (1979), Nemirno pomorje XV veka (in Serbian), Beograd: Srpska književna zadruga, p. 378, OCLC 5845972, Када је Лека порушио тврђаву Сати пре него што ће је предати Млечанима, Скендербег је заузео град и села по његовој околини, потиснувши одатле Леку.
  20. ^ Gawrych, George (2006). The Crescent and the Eagle: Ottoman rule, Islam and the Albanians, 1874–1913. London: IB Tauris. p. 30. ISBN 9781845112875.
  21. ^ Anna Di Lellio (2006). The Case for Kosova: Passage to Independence. Anthem Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-85728-712-0. Retrieved 24 September 2013. The first version of the kanun to be codified was based on the ethnographic work by an Albanian Franciscan priest by the name of Shtjefën Gjeçovi. Students of Albanian history and society sometimes refer to Gjeçovi's rendition as if it is the...
  22. ^ De Waal, Clarissa (2005). Albania today: a portrait of post-communist turbulence. Centre for Albanian Studies. I.B.Tauris. p. 72. ISBN 9781850438595.
  23. ^ Cook, Bernard (2001). Europe since 1945: an encyclopedia. Garland Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-8153-4057-5. Retrieved 2010-07-01.