League of Lezhë
|League of Lezhë|
|Lidhja e Lezhës
Participant in Albanian–Venetian War
|Area of operations||Albania Veneta
Sanjak of Albania
Sanjak of Dibra
|Battles and wars||See list|
The League of Lezhë (2 March 1444 – ca. 1450; Albanian: Lidhja e Lezhës or Besëlidhja e Lezhës) was a military alliance of feudal lords in Albania forged in Lezhë on 2 March 1444, initiated and organised under Venetian patronage with Skanderbeg as leader of the regional Albanian and Serbian chieftains united against the Ottoman Empire. The main members of the league were the Arianiti, Balšić, Zaharia, Muzaka, Spani, Thopia and Crnojevići. All earlier and many modern historians accepted Marin Barleti's news about this meeting in Lezhë (without giving it equal weight), although no contemporary Venetian document mentions it. Barleti referred to the meeting as the generalis concilium or universum concilium [general or whole council]; the term "League of Lezhë" was coined by subsequent historians.
After the death of Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan in 1355, the magnates in Albania established their own dominions. When Ottoman forces entered Albania, they were faced with small principalities that were engaged in vicious fights among themselves. The first battle against the Ottoman forces in Albania was that of Balša II, the Lord of Zeta, whose forces were defeated in the battle of Savra (18 September 1385) and Balša II himself was killed.
In the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire established itself in the Balkans with no significant resistance offered by local Christian nobles during this period. Many of them were still fighting amongst themselves and didn't see the advance of the Ottoman Empire as a threat to their power. Although a civil war broke out between Bayezid I sons', during 1402–1413, none of the Christian noblemen in the Balkans at the time seized the opportunity to repel the Ottomans; in the contrary, Bulgarians, Serbs and Hungarians even helped the future Sultan Mohammed I seize power, by participating as his allies in the final battle against his brother. After the Ottoman civil war was over in favor of Mehmed I, his forces captured Kruja from the Thopia family in 1415, Berat in 1417 from Muzaka, Vlora and Kanina in 1417 from the widow of Balsha and Gjirokastër in 1418 from the Zenevisi family. Under pressure from the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice, the Albanian principalities began to vacillate.
Together with occupation, new rulers were appointed and the registration process of the population and properties was done by Ottoman tax officers. Local populations and old nobility were not happy with that and various local rebellions took place, the most famous ones being those of Gjon Kastrioti in 1429–1430 and Gjergj Araniti in 1432–1435.
In November 1443, Skanderbeg captured Kruja with his troops and declared its independence from the Sultan.
- Lekë Zaharia (lord of Sati and Dagnum), and his vassals Pal and Nicholas Dukagjini
- Peter Spani (lord of the mountains behind Drivasto)
- Lekë Dushmani (lord of Minor Pult)
- George Strez, John and Gojko Balšić (lords of Misia, between Kruja and Alessio)
- Andrea Thopia (lord of Scuria, between Tirana and Durazzo) with his nephew Tanush
- Gjergj Arianiti
- Theodor Corona Musachi
- Stefan Crnojević (lord of Upper Zeta)
The military alliance was made up of the feudal lords in Albania, and was according to Georges Castellan "a precarious alliance". Skanderbeg was elected its leader and commander-in-chief of its combined armed forces numbering 8,000 warriors. All the territorial lords had their own domains and affairs; "Skanderbeg had no right to interfere with the affairs of the domains of other nobles", acting only as the supreme military leader, as primus inter pares.
After Peter Spani and George Dushmani left the League of Lezha, and after the Arianiti and Dukagjini left it in 1450, members of Dukagjini family concluded peace with the Ottoman Empire and started their actions against Skanderbeg. Robert Elsie emphasizes that Gjergj Arianiti was often Skanderbeg's rival and that he actually left his alliance with Skanderbeg by 1459.
For 25 years, from 1443–1468, Skanderbeg's 10,000 man army marched through Ottoman territory winning against consistently larger and better supplied Ottoman forces. Threatened by Ottoman advances in their homeland, Hungary, and later Naples and Venice – their former enemies – provided the financial backbone and support for Skanderbeg's army. On May 14, 1450, an Ottoman army, larger than any previous force encountered by Skanderbeg or his men stormed and overwhelmed the castle of the city of Kruja. This city was particularly symbolic to Skanderbeg because he had been appointed suba of Kruja in 1438 by the Ottomans. The Ottoman forces were unable to capture the city and fell back as winter arrived. In June 1466, Mehmed II led an army of 150,000 soldiers back to Kruja but failed to capture the city.
Though an official date of dissolution is unknown, the League of Lezhë fragmented soon after its founding, with many of its members breaking away. By 1450 it had certainly ceased to function as originally intended, and only the core of the alliance under Scanderbeg and Araniti Comino continued to fight on. After Skanderbeg's death in 1468, the sultan "easily subdued Albania," but Skanderbeg's death did not end the struggle for independence, and fighting continued until the Ottoman siege of Shkodra in 1478–79, a siege ending when the Republic of Venice ceded Shkodra to the Ottomans in the peace treaty of 1479.
The League of Lezhë fought the following battles against the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Venice:
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... a solid military alliance was concluded among all the Albanian and Serbian chieftains along the Adriatic coast from southern Epirus to the Bosnian border.
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Мада ниједан савремени млетачки документ не помиње овај скуп, сви старији и многи новији историчари прихватили су Барлецијеве вести не придајући им, разуме се, исти значај.
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Nikola und Paul Dukagjin, Leka Zaharia von Dagno, Peter Span, Herr der Berge hinter Drivasto, Georg Strez Balsha sowie Johann und Gojko Balsha, die sich zwischen Kruja und Alessio festgesetzt hatten, die Dushman von Klein-Polatum sowie Stefan (Stefanica) Crnojevic, der Herr der Oberzeta
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Andrea Thopia of Scuria between Tirana and Durazzo with his nephew, Tanush Thopia
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Even this was loose association of the territorial lords who felt free to go their own way if they so choose. The League functioned only in military domain, never as government, although it did provide the first rudiments of Albanian unity.
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In Albania the Ottomans continued to be confronted by Skanderbeg and feudal lords who in 1444 had formed the League of Alessio (Lezha). Yet this was a precarious alliance and ...
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With this network of treaties, the League of Alessio was placed under King Alphonse V, with Skenderbeg as Captain General.78 When Musachi Thopia was apparently reluctant to collaborate with Skenderbeg, the King of Naples reminded him ...
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Por të pafuqishëm për t'i bërë ballë fuqisë së Skënderbeut, si rrugëdalje ata gjetën shkëputjen nga Lidhja. Të parët që ndërmorën një veprim të tillë ishin Pjetër Spani dhe Gjergj Dushmani.
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In 1450 two powerful aristocratic families, Arianits and Dukagjins, left the league.... Skanderbeg tried to keep them near him. But his efforts failed. The Dukagjins not only did not accede, but on the contrary, concluded peace with Sultan and began to plot against Skanderbeg.
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