Ottoman rule (1481-1912)Ottoman supremacy in the west Balkan region began in 1385 with the Battle of Savra. On the conquered part of Albania, which territory stretched between Mat River on the north and Çameria to the south, Ottoman Empire established the Sanjak of Albania and in 1419 Gjirokastra became the county town of the Sanjak of Albania.Beginning in the late-14th century, the Ottomans expanded their empire from Anatolia to the Balkans (Rumelia).
By the 15th century, the Ottomans ruled most of the Balkan Peninsula. Their rule in part of Albania was briefly interrupted in the 15th century, when George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, an Albanian who had served as an Ottoman military officer, renounced Ottoman service, allied with some Albanian chiefs and fought off Turkish rule from 1443–1478. Albania was almost fully re-occupied by the Ottomans in 1478 after capturing Scodra from Venice. Albania's conquest by Ottomans was completed after Durazzo's capture from Venice in 1501.
Ottoman-Albanian warsMany Albanians had been recruited into the Janissary, including the feudal heir George Kastrioti who was renamed Skanderbeg (Iskandar Bey) by his Turkish trainers at Edirne. After some Ottoman defeats at the hands of the Hungarins, Skanderbeg deserted and began a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire.
After deserting, Skanderbeg re-converted to Roman Catholicism and declared war against the Ottoman Empire, which he led from 1443 to 1468. Under a red flag bearing Skanderbeg's heraldic emblem, an Albanian force held off Ottoman campaigns for twenty-five years and overcame sieges of Krujë led by the forces of the Ottoman sultans Murad II and Mehmed II.
However, Skanderbeg was unable to receive any of the help which had been promised him by the popes. He died in 1468, leaving no worthy successor. After his death the rebellion continued, but without its former success. The loyalties and alliances created and nurtured by Skanderbeg faltered and fell apart and the Ottomans reconquered the territory of Albania, culminating with the siege of Shkodra in 1478. Shortly after the fall of the castles of northern Albania, many Albanians fled to neighboring Italy, giving rise to the modern Arbëreshë communities.
Late Ottoman periodOttomans' return in 1478, a large number of Albanians fled to Italy, Egypt and other parts of the Ottoman Empire and Europe and maintained their Arbëresh identity. Many Albanians won fame and fortune as soldiers, administrators, and merchants in far-flung parts of the Empire. As the centuries passed, however, Ottoman rulers lost the capacity to command the loyalty of local pashas, which threatened stability in the region. The Ottoman rulers of the 19th century struggled to shore up central authority, introducing reforms aimed at harnessing unruly pashas and checking the spread of nationalist ideas. Albania would be a part of the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century.
The Ottoman period that followed was characterized by a change in the landscape through a gradual modification of the settlements with the introduction of bazaars, military garrisons and mosques in many Albanian regions. Part of the Albanian population gradually converted to Islam, with many joining the Sufi Order of the Bektashi. Converting from Christianity to Islam brought considerable advantages, including access to Ottoman trade networks, bureaucratic positions and the army. As a result many Albanians came to serve in the elite Janissary and the administrative Devşirme system. Among these were important historical figures, including Iljaz Hoxha, Hamza Kastrioti, Davud Pasha, Zağanos Pasha, Köprülü Mehmed Pasha (head of the Köprülü family of Grand Viziers), the Bushati family, Sulejman Pasha, Edhem Pasha, Nezim Frakulla, Ali Pasha of Tepelena, Haxhi Shekreti, Hasan Zyko Kamberi, Ali Pasha of Gucia, Mehmet Ali ruler of Egypt and Emin Pasha
Many Albanians gained prominent positions in the Ottoman government, Albanians highly active during the Ottoman era and leaders such as Ali Pasha of Tepelena might have aided Husein Gradaščević. The Albanians proved generally faithful to Ottoman rule following the end of the resistance led by Skanderbeg, and accepted Islam more easily than their neighbors.
No fewer than 42 Grand Viziers of the Empire were of Albanian descent. The Ottoman period also saw the rising of semi-autonomous Albanian ruled Pashaliks and Albanians were also an important part of the Ottoman army and Ottoman administration like the case of Köprülü family. Albania would remain a part of the Ottoman Empire as the provinces of Scutari, Monastir and Janina until 1912.