The paper deals with the facts that led to the creation of “Venetian Albania“. Namely, “Venetian Albania“ (Albania Veneta) was a historical and geographical entity that emerged after the Venetian takeover of Durazzo from its Albanian master George Topia in 1392, and survived until the peace of Campoformio and the annexation of Venice and the remaining Venetian lands in the Adriatic to Austria in 1797. Although its origin was related to the Venetian occupation of Durazzo, its territory lay primarily, and after the fall of Durazzo, under the Ottomans in 1501, in the area of the medieval Serbian Littoral, from Cattaro to Scutari, which before the spread of “Venetian Albania“ was never considered to be “Albania“.
However, it is first necessary to explain the geographical, historical and political relationship between original Albania and newly established “Venetian Albania“. Albania, that is, the Arbanum region – a wider area around the town of Kruje, was initially part of the theme of Durazzo of the Byzantine Empire. After the fall of Constantinople into the hands of Crusaders in 1204, Durazzo fell into the hands of the Venetians, but in the region of Arbanum, we encounter the first testimonies of the Principatus Arbanensis (“Principality of Arbanum“) as a political entity. In the following period, Arbanum and Durazzo changed supreme authority several times, firstly Epirote, then Bulgarian, and at the end, the struggle for the control of these territories was fought between the Despotate of Epirus and the Empire of Nicaea. Sicilian King Manfred of Hoenstaufen also participated in these events. After Manfred’s death, Charles of Anjou became a pretender to Manfred’s inheritance. In order to achieve his goal, in Viterbo in 1267 he made an alliance with Latin emperor Baldwin who acknowledged his rights over Manfred’s inheritance in Epirus, as well as in the “kingdom of Albania“ (regnum Albaniae), which was the first mention of that term. Based on these provisions, by 1272 Charles had already under his rule Durazzo and Albania. He appointed his captain for the Kingdom of Albania, to whom he subsequently entrusted the administration of Durazzo, which was not considered part of the Kingdom of Albania. The Kingdom of Albania temporarily disappeared in 1284. After the change of the Byzantine and Serbian authorities over Durazzo and the Albanian hinterland, the Angevine pretensions were revived with Philip of Taranto and in 1304 he issued a series of privileges to the Durazzins and “the estates of the Kingdom of Albania“. However, although the city of Durazzo was treated as a separate entity, this time during the Angevine rule, it completely belonged to the restored Kingdom of Albania. During the time of Philip’s successors, Durazzo was constituted as a separate Duchy of Durazzo and was again separated from the rest of the “Kingdom of Albania“. The rule of the Duke of Durazzo over the “Kingdom of Albania“ was still unstable and dependent upon the loyalty of Albanian nobles. During the 1340s, they recognised Serbian authority, after which the Angevine “Kingdom of Albania“ ceased to exist, but the Duchy of Durazzo held up until 1368, when it was won over by Charles Topia, an Albanian local nobleman. Once again, Durazzo and its Albanian hinterland were united under the rule of the same lord.
As early as 1362, the Durazzins came into close contact with the Venetians, and four years later, Charles Topia received the privileges of Venetian citizenship. His son George Topia also had close cooperation with the Venetians.
However, after George’s death in 1392, the city and its Albanian hinterland came in possession of the Venetians, and that is how “Venetian Albania“ came into existence, although that term was still unknown. So the only link between original Albania and “Venetian Albania“, except for the name, was the city of Durazzo. “Venetian Albania“ did not spread to the east, to the core of Albania – former Arbanum; on the contrary, it was soon extended to the north, thanks to the lord of Zeta, George II Stratimirović Balšić. Namely, he offered the cities of Scutari and Drivasto to the Venetians. However, the Venetians were not allowed to accept them at once, as they would violate the peace provisions with the Hungarians of 1358 and 1381, which meant that the Hungarian authority would extend through all of Dalmatia, from “Quarnaro to the borders of Durazzo“. Therefore, Scutari and Drivasto were certainly located within that area. Nevertheless, skilled Venetians, wanting to extend the boundaries of “Venetian Albania“ to the north, ordered their captain of Durazzo to find in the old acts whether those cities belonged to Dalmatia or to the “borders of Durazzo“. The captain of Durazzo obviously found some ancient writings, even from the period of the Byzantine authority about the spread of the theme of Durazzo over those cities in the period from the 9th to the 11th centuries (which is evidenced by the works of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, John Scylitzes, Scylitzes Continuatus, Nicephorus Bryennius, Anne Comnene). After the Serbian conquest of these towns in the middle of the 11th century, they made a whole with the old Serbian land of Dioclea (Zeta), but they retained a specific status, so we often encounter the phrases “Zeta and the Cities“ or “Dioclea and Dalmatia“, where under Dalmatia the area of Upper Dalmatia was meant. In the 13th century Thomas the Archdeacon defined the entirety of Dalmatia as an area starting from Epirus and Durazzo and extending to the Quarnaro Bay, just like in the treaties of 1358 and 1381. The Venetians thus violated these provisions, but they justified their own actions by calling upon the former affiliation of these cities to the Byzantine theme of Durazzo. A similar dispute over the issue of whom these cities, Scutari in particular, belonged to – Dalmatia or Durazzo, was initiated by Serbian grand župan Stefan Nemanjić in 1214. The Venetians perhaps used the evidence pertaining to that dispute, in addition to finding older documents from the time of Byzantine rule.
It was only then that after the spread of the Venetian power over the southern Adriatic cities of Scutari and Drivasto that the name of “Albania“ was first used. Since then, it became a more common name for the Venetian territories in the South Adriatic, and gradually spread to the north, eventually encompassing all of Zeta. The Turkish founding of the Sanjak of Scutari in 1479 had a strong geopolitical foundation in “Venetian Albania“, and as it included Montenegro and Brda, they were considered a part of Albania up until the 19th century. On the other hand, “Venetian Albania“ after the Turkish conquest of Durazzo in 1501 was reduced only to the areas of the cities of Budva and Cattaro, far beyond the borders of the theme of Durazzo, its original core.