Albanian piracy

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A period of Albanian piracy occurred from the 15th to the 19th centuries, during which Albanian pirates plundered and raided ships. The pirates were based mainly in Ulcinj, but were also based in Bar and Ragusa, and had connections with North Africa. [1] They plundered Venetian and Ottoman ships, disrupting the Mediterranean economy and forcing the Ottoman and European powers to intervene. Some of the pirate leaders from Ulcinj during this period were well known, such as Lika Ceni. The Ottoman empire was also known to hire these pirates during periods of war.[2]


The first sign of piracy around the region of Ulcinj was documented during the Illyrian period, with pirates raiding Roman ships.[3][4] In 1405, Ulcinj was occupied by Venice and remained a pirate haven despite the Ottoman conquest in 1571. By the end of the 16th century, around 400 pirates from Malta, Tunisia and Algeria were based in Ulcinj.[5]

Accounts of Pirate Activity[edit]

Fernand Braudel wrote to the Venetian senate in 1536, notifying them of Albanian pirates raiding ships between Corfu and Albania.[6] In 1570, Albanian pirates were recorded as inflicting heavy losses on Venetian ships.[7] During the 16th century, Ottomans raided Ulcinj (the most famous pirate haven on the Adriatic sea), destroying the pirate fleet. Nevertheless, the raids persisted.[8]

In 1602, the Venetian ambassador, Nicolo Molin, complained of the situation, describing the Albanian pirates as "unbearable." In 1605, captain Bernardo Venier attempted to eliminate the pirates[9] but failed.[10] By 1630, Albanian pirates had again became a severe problem,[11] forcing Venice to request assistance from the Ottoman empire.

Antonio Baldacci wrote in the 17th century there were at least 500 pirates around Ulcinj.[12]

The General Provider of Dalmatia wrote in 1708 that the pirates of Ulcinj had grown in strength to such an extent that they took control over the trade routes with Drače and Bojan and were active in Dalmatia, Istria and Friuli.[13] During this period, Albanian pirates were reported to have disguised themselves as pirates from the Maghreb when they conducted raids on merchant vessels. After the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718, imperial orders were issued directing that the Albanian pirates should be put down.[14] In 1718, Jose Isnar, the French consul in Durres, wrote that "the pirates terrorize the Adriatic coast" and that "they respect neither Sultan nor any other authority".[15]

At the end of 1764, a pirate captain by the name of Sinan Komina seized a ship from Livorno in Koron (Peloponnese) with a crew of 40 pirates and brought it to Bar. When Sultan Mehmed's men found the ship missing, the Sultan ordered Komina's arrest. Komina fled to Paštro which was home to the Kažanegra family, with whom he was allied.[16] At the beginning of 1765, the pirates of Ulcinj regrouped under Komina's leadership, in spite of continuing Ottoman opposition.[17]

In 1785, the Ottomans, under Kara Mahmud Pasha, launched an attack on Montenegro, once again destroying the pirate fleet.[18]

Sporadic raids continued, however. In 1813, the German painter and archaeologist Otto Magnus von Stackelberg sailed close to Salonica when the ship was attacked by Albanian pirates. The artist was captured and the pirates threatened to kill him if he could not pay 60,000 piastres.[19]

On August 14, 1817, journalists reported on Albanian pirates raiding ships near Venice.[20] James John Best wrote that an Albanian pirate attacked a British ship outside of Corfu in 1840.[21]

In 1818 more than 400 ships were counted among the Ulcinj navy.[22].

Parliamentary Papers wrote of an attack in 1837 where 100 Albanian pirates, part of a secret organisation in European Turkey, attacked a village outside the coast of Otranto and massacred the villagers. The leader was a pirate named Rafil Bey.[23] The raids continued until the later half of the 19th century. The piracy finally ended after the European powers united and forced the Ottomans to hunt them down.

In 1878, Hobhouse wrote that the pirates of Dulcigno numbered some 6,000.[24]

Ottoman Support for the Pirates[edit]

The pirates played a role in competition between the Ottoman empire and its rivals, usually siding with the Ottomans. In 1687, when the Ottomans lost the city of Herceg-Novi, Venice attempted to fill the vacuum, but was prevented from doing so by a population of 500 pirates from Malta, Tunis and Algeria, many of whom were veterans of the Kandyan Wars of 1669.[25] The Ottomans are reported to have provided support to the pirates as long as they focused their raids on Venetian ships.[26]

Links to North Africa[edit]

Following a siege in Tripoli, a number of hardened pirates fled to Albania and joined the ranks of the Albanian pirates. Ali Hoxha, was noted for burning down the village of Mljet in 1725. Following this incident, he was expelled from Ulcinj and returned to Tripoli. In 1731 a new pasha defeated the pirates once again, and many fled to Tripoli.[27]

Relations with Local Populations[edit]

Some pirate leaders maintained the good relations with local population. Hadji Ali earned the admiration of local peasants by generously sharing his booty, and became something of a legend after putting up fierce resistance to a powerful combined Venetian and British fleet, despite being significantly outmanned and outgunned.[28]


Today there are numerous memorials in Ulcinj of the pirate lords who lived in the city.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Malcolm, Noel (2015). Agents of Empire Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World (PDF). Oxford University press. p. 149.
  2. ^ ATVIJA KEROVI] Lektura: ZUVDIJA HOD@I] SULJO MUSTAFI], Izvr{ni direktor (2009). Osniva~ i izdava~ UDRU@ENJE "ALMANAH" PODGORICA (PDF) (Osniva~ i prvi urednik "Almanaha" ed.). Podgorica: Urednik [ERBO RASTODER Redakcija: ZUVDIJA HOD@I], ATVIJA KEROVI], MILIKA PAVLOVI], [ERBO RASTODER, ASIM DIZDAREVI], SENAD GA^EVI], ESAD KO^AN, SULJO MUSTAFI], ADNAN ^IRGI]. p. 155.
  3. ^ PART TWO - PIRATES OF THE ADRIATIC CHAPTER FIVE The Neretva Pirates Circa 800-1000 A.D. (PDF).
  4. ^ Winnifrith, Tom (1992). Perspectives on Albania. Macmillan. p. 41. ISBN 9780333512821.
  5. ^ Planet, Lonely; Sheward, Tamara; Dragicevich, Peter (2017). Lonely Planet Montenegro. Lonely Planet. ISBN 9781787010598.
  6. ^ Braudel, Fernand (1973). The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II (Volume 2 ed.). University of Michigan: Collins. p. 872.
  7. ^ Ferraro, Joanne M. (2012). Venice: History of the Floating City. Cambridge University Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780521883597.
  8. ^ Cox, Garretson (1897). The Columbian cyclopedia (Volym 10 ed.). University of Minnesota: Garretson, Cox, & company,.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  9. ^ "The Pirates from Ulcinj".
  10. ^ Tenenti, Alberto (1967). Piracy and the Decline of Venice, 1580-1615. University of California Press. p. 122.
  11. ^ Malcolm, Noel (2015). Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 9780141978369.
  12. ^ Baldacci Antonio, L Albania, Roma 1929, str. 137.
  13. ^ Isto, str. 126.
  14. ^ Imber, Colin; Kiyotaki, Keiko; Murphey, Rhoads (2005). Frontiers of Ottoman Studies:. I.B.Tauris. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9781850436645.
  15. ^ The Pirates from Ulcinj, "„They keep terrorizing across the Adriatic“, wrote in 1718 the French consul in Durres Jose Isnar and he mentioned that the Ulcinj pirates did not respect the sultan nor any other authority in the world!"
  16. ^ Јовановић, Раткo (MILENKO RATKOVIĆ). Milenko-Ratkovic-Gusarska-epopeja.pdf. p. 16.
  17. ^ Slavko Mijušković, Turske mjere protiv ulcinjskih gusara, Godišnjak PMK, XII, Kotor, 1964, str.95.
  18. ^ Vickers, Miranda (2011). The Albanians: A Modern History. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9780857736550.
  19. ^ Holland, Sir Henry (1819). Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, &c. during the years 1812 and 1813. Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. p. 78.
  20. ^ The Literary Panorama and National Register. C. Taylor. 1817. p. 134.
  21. ^ Best, J. J. (1842). Excursions in Albania: Comprising a Description of the Wild Boar, Deer, and Woodcock Shooting in that Country and a Journey from Thence to Thessalonica & Constantinople and Up the Danube to Pest. Wm. H. Allen. p. 49.
  22. ^ Hecquard H., Histoire et description de la Haute Albanie ou Guegarie, Paris 1858, str. 48.
  23. ^ Parliamentary Papers. H.M. Stationery Office. 1840. p. 4.
  24. ^ Clark, Edson Lyman (1878). The Races of European Turkey. Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 159.
  25. ^ "Ulcinj History". Visit Montenegro.
  26. ^ Basic, Husein (2009). Osniva~ i prvi urednik "Almanaha. Podgrocia: Osniva~ i izdava~ UDRU@ENJE "ALMANAH" PODGORICA. p. 109.
  27. ^ Vuk Vinaver, Dubrovnik i Turska u XVIII veku, Posebna izdanja CCCXXXI, Istorijski institut, knj. 11, Beograd, 1960, str. 31.
  28. ^ "A trip through history".