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Robert Elsie

Texts and Documents of Albanian History

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The Fortress of Shkodra (Photo: Marubbi 1925).

The Fortress of Shkodra
(Photo: Marubbi 1925).

Fior Jonima:
A Ravaged Land

Much of northern and central Albania was under Venetian control before the Ottoman conquest of the fifteenth century. The Ottoman military campaigns of 1466 and 1467 ravaged most of the country. It was the sultan’s policy to empty the land of its native inhabitants, should they put up resistance. Fior Jonima of Shkodra, scion of the noble Albanian Jonima family that owned much land between the Mat and Ishëm rivers, wrote this response to the Venetian tax authorities who had inquired of him as to why so little revenue had been arriving from Albania. The short chronology of cataclysms that Jonima provides here shows that much of Albania was a wasteland at the time. It is the earliest personal account given by an Albanian about the state of his country.

I, Fior Jonima, citizen of Skutari [Shkodra] and presently ambassador of this community, was asked, on the orders of the Magnificent Lord Administrator of Revenues, what I knew about the deeds of the Turks in this part of Albania for the years 1466 and 1467.

I can state that around the end of April 1466, the Grand Turk arrived in this country in person and sent his captain forth who scoured the country and pillaged it. He stole many animals and kidnapped many people.

When he departed, Ballaban arrived to besiege Croia [Kruja]. He too robbed and pillaged the towns of the Signoria, and kidnapped many people.

Soon thereafter, Sinan Bey arrived, who brought about even greater ruin and destruction. He had animals and people kidnapped and put the country to the torch.

After this came the Voyvod of Serbia, called Amur Bey, who caused great destruction. Not only did he steal endless numbers of animals, he also put the country to the torch and kidnapped quite a few people.

Then came Lord Progon Dukagjin, who also robbed and put to the torch whatever was left over.

The Grand Turk came back to this country in 1467 and sent the Pasha of Romania [Roumeli] out with a strong army [to subdue it]. He robbed, pillaged and took endless numbers of people off with him. When he had had his fill of robbing and pillaging, he continued on to the region of Skutari where he came to blows with the people. He finally got into the open town outside the fortress, which he robbed and pillaged.

Then came a Voyvod called Feriz Bey who also robbed and pillaged.

Then came Nikola Dukagjin, who also robbed, pillaged and kidnapped many people.

After this, the Voyvod of Serbia came back a second time to rob and pillage and kidnap more people.

Then came the Voyvod of Dibra who robbed, pillaged and kidnapped many people.

In conclusion, I can say that in the period in question, this country was turned into a wasteland. It has remained as such up to the present day. Gone are not only the settlements, but also the people, with the exception of those few villages that have been rebuilt. It would thus be necessary for prisoners who have been convicted or banned to be pardoned and sent to this country [to repopulate it].

28 December 1470


[from: Archivio di Stato di Venezia, Governatori delle pubbliche entrate, registri multorum B. 145 (vol. 35), 13r-v; reprinted in Oliver Jens Schmitt: Das venezianische Albanien (1392-1479), Munich 2001, p. 646. Translated from the Venetian Italian by Robert Elsie.]