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Venetian Albania (Italian: Albania Veneta) or Lower Zeta (Montenegrin: Donja Zeta, Доња Зета) was the name for the possessions of the Venetian Republic in southern Dalmatia and the west coast of Albania that existed from 1420 to 1797. It originally covered the coastal area of what is now the coast of Montenegro and Albania, but the southern parts were lost to the Ottomans between 1478 and 1571.
Venetian Albania were Venetian possessions that stretched from the southern borders of the Republic of Ragusa to Durrës in coastal Albania. The Venetian territories usually reached only 20 km from the Adriatic Sea. After 1573 the southern limit was moved to the village of Kufin near Budva, because of the Ottoman conquests of Bar, Ulcinj, Shkodër, and Durrës. The Venetian territory was then centered on the area of the Bay of Kotor, and included the towns of Kotor, Risan, Perast, Tivat, Herceg Novi, Budva, and Sutomore.
The Venetians periodically controlled the small southern Dalmatian villages around in the 10th century, but did not permanently assume control until 1420. The Venetians assimilated the Dalmatian language into the Venetian dialect quickly. The Venetian territories around Kotor lasted from 1420 to 1797 and were called Venetian Albania, a province of the Venetian Republic.
In the early years of the Renaissance the territories under Venetian control included areas from actual coastal Montenegro to northern Albania until Durrës: Venetians retained this city after a siege by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1466 but it fell to Ottoman forces in 1501.
In those years Venetian Albania was relatively rich (by Balkan standards) and the area around the city of Cattaro enjoyed a huge cultural and artistic development.
When the Ottoman Empire started to conquer the Balkans in the 15th century, the population of Christian Slavs in Dalmatia increased greatly. As a consequence of this, by the end of the 17th century the Romance speaking population of the historical Venetian Albania was a minority, according to Oscar Randi in his book Dalmazia etnica, incontri e fusioni.
After the French Republic conquered the Venetian Republic, the area of Venetian Albania became part of the Austrian Empire by the Treaty of Campo Formio, then the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy by the Peace of Pressburg, and then the French Illyrian Provinces by the Treaty of Schönbrunn. In 1814 it was again included in the Austrian Empire.
- Perast (Пераст), once part of Venetian Albania, was at its peak in the 18th century, when it had as many as four active shipyards, a standing fleet of around a hundred ships, and 1,643 residents. At that time a number of architecturally significant buildings were constructed in this fortified town. Many ornate baroque palaces and houses were decorated the town of Perast, built in the Ventian style. Citizens of Perast (the population was around 1,600 at the time) enjoyed privileges from the Venetian Republic. They were allowed to trade with large ships and to sell goods without tax on the Venetian market, which created considerable income for the town.
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Albanians lived in the south of the Venetian Albania around Ulcinj and Durrës. The area around Kotor was populated by Croats and Romance-speakers and was fully Catholic. Many clans from Albania Veneta had immigrated to Italy, Korfu and Constantinople: Klanlarets in Istanbul is an example of Venetian Albanians today.
According to the Italian historian Luigi Paulucci the population of the Venetian Albania, during the centuries of the Venetian Republic, was mainly Venetian speaking in the urban areas (Kotor, Perast, Budva, ecc..) around the Bay of Kotor. But in the inland areas more than half of the population was Serbo-Croatian-speaking, after the beginning of the eighteenth century. Furthermore, near the border with Albania there were big communities of Albanian speaking people: Ulcinj was half Albanian, one quarter Venetian and one quarter Slav speaking. Durrës and Shkodër were primarily Albanian inhabited.
- Cecchetti, Bartolomeo. Intorno agli stabilimenti politici della repubblica veneta nell'Albania. pp. 978–983.
- Paulucci, Luigi. Le Bocche di Cattaro nel 1810. p. 24
- Durant, Will. The Renaissance. pag. 121
- Randi, Oscar. Dalmazia etnica, incontri e fusioni. pag. 37-38
- Sumrada, Janez. Napoleon na Jadranu / Napoleon dans l'Adriatique.pag. 159
- Durant, Will. The Renaissance.pag. 139
- The struggle between Venice and the Ottoman empire for the Venetian Albania in the sixteenth century (Italian)
- Kotor and the Montenegro's Venetian speaking area (italian)
- UNESCO: Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor
- Historical review of the Italian traces in Montenegro (Italian)
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