Arbanasi (Albanian: Arbëreshët e Zarës, local dialect: Arbneshë), also known as the Arbëreshë of Zara, are a population in Croatia of Albanian origin, who speak a local dialect of Gheg Albanian. Their name means Albanians in Croatian and is the toponymy of the first Arbanasi settlement in the region, which today is a suburb of Zadar.
Today, the community is spread across Croatia. Their original settlements were Arbanasi of Zadar and some villages around Zadar, namely Zemunik, Dračevac, Crno, Ploča, etc. The inhabitants of this one time village were known as the Arbanasi (or simply, the "Albanians" in Croatian). The Arbanasi are known to have settled the area during two different periods of migration; the first in 1655 and the second in 1726-33. These settlers were said to be part of the Kastrioti clan, one of the numerous Northern Albanian clans known to have existed.
The origin of this population is thought to be from Shkodra lake region in Northwestern Albania and Southeastern Montenegro. According to scholars they are descendants of immigrants from villages in Bar region of Montenegro primarely and from Briska and Livar. Arbanasi have migrated in two different periods, during the mid-17th and 18th century.
The first group of Arbanasi group of Albanians that migrated to Croatia includes a community that settled near Pula, Istria in 1655. All these groups would be integrated into the social and economic Venetian-Dalmatian, but they preserved their language and their customs, and songs. First, the Albanian community worked to reclaim the marshy areas near the Arbanas, which was originally an island and that in time it was connected to the mainland, and then got to make the land cultivable land in the scheme of 'lease. The Venetian government took charge of construction of many homes and, at first, even meals.
Since 1901 the Arbanasi was also equipped with an Albanian school and in 1910 James Vuçani promoted and organized the "Italo-Albanian Association".
According to tradition, the Albanians of Arbanasi came from countries Briska and Sestan. These locations were identified by some with the villages of Shestan, Brisk, and Arbnesh Liar, all located in the hinterland of Bar and Ulqin in Montenegro, but within areas inhabited by Albanians. A demonstration of the fact that the origin of the Albanians of Arbanasi were not located along the coast is that in their language most of the names of the fish comes from the Croatian.
After the Second World War, many Arbanasi emigrated to Italy, following the Yugoslav takeover of Zadar. In modern times about 4000 Arbanasi remain in Croatia.