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Siege of Scutari (1912–1913)

Siege of Scutari
Part of the First Balkan War
Siege of Scutari montage.png
Clockwise from top left: Flags of Great Powers on Shkodër fortress; Ottoman troops defending Shkodër; Montenegrin flag flying over the Shkoder fortress; Captured flag standard of Montenegrin forces proudly displayed by Turkish and Albanian troops; Albanian guerillas shooting from a tree; Albanian officers posing with captured Montenegrin ammunition
Date28 October 1912 – 23 April 1913[1]
Result Status quo ante bellum[2]
Essad Pasha Toptani signed the final surrender protocol on April 23, 1913.[1]
A Peace treaty signed by Essad Pasha and King Nikola, that returned Shkodër to the Albanian Principality.[3]
 Ottoman Empire
Albanian Volunteers
Commanders and leaders
Ottoman Empire Hasan Rıza Pasha 
Ottoman Empire Essad Pasha Surrendered[4]
Kingdom of Montenegro King Nikola
Kingdom of Montenegro Crown Prince Danilo
Kingdom of Montenegro Radomir Vešović
20,000[5] 40,000[5]
Casualties and losses
Unknown ~ 15,000[5]

The siege of Scutari—also referred to as the siege of Shkodër[3] (Albanian: Rrethimi i Shkodrës, Serbian: Опсада Скадра), known in Turkish as İşkodra Müdafaası[6] or İşkodra Savunması[7]—took place from 28 October 1912 to 23 April 1913 when the army of Kingdom of Montenegro defeated the forces of the Ottoman Empire and invaded Shkodër.


In 1912, the Balkan League—consisting of Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria—had jointly declared war against the Ottoman Empire. Montenegro mobilized its troops and prepared to attack the Ottoman forces in Albania directly to the south. However, behind stood the intention to expand Montenegro at the expense of territories with an overwhelming Albanian majority. Montenegro considered itself successor of Zeta, a medieval Slavic realm, with Skhoder as its capital. With the transition of power from the last feudal lords Balšići or Balsha to Venetians, and eventually Ottomans, who established a city as an administrative center of the region, the "lost capital" became a symbol of oppression for the Montenegrins.[citation needed][8] Historically, the border between the medieval Zeta and Albanian principalities was the Drin river, as pointed out by 17th-century Montenegrin ruler and historiographer Vasilije and Montenegro sought to expand itself to its traditional borders.[citation needed] Furthermore, the region had considerable Slavic population.[citation needed] Many Montenegrins trace their heritage back to the region, which their ancestors abandoned after the Turkish occupation.[9]

Start of the war

On 8 October 1912 Gen. Hasan Riza Pasha announced that Montenegro had declared war on the Ottoman Empire in order to get rid of the 600 years of oppression by the "Turkish foot", as the enemy claimed, and that its troops were crossing the border between Montenegro and Albania. Two hours after the news the Montenegrin troops, as expected, were approaching Scutari. Up to 70% of the Turkish army in the inner parts of the Balkans was composed of Muslim Albanian conscripts during the freedom struggle from the Ottoman Empire. At noon Hasan Riza Pasha in his headquarters gathered all his commanders and told them:

The city will soon be surrounded, but this city will not fall into the hands of Montenegrins. Shkodra is our fate or our grave, but not our shame. Today we have five thousand troops, but over 20 thousand others are coming to our assistance. As of today begins an uphill battle, that none of us knows how long it will last

— Hasan Riza Pasha, during the organisation of the defence of Scutari, [10]


Montenegrin soldier on the Tarabosh near Skadar

The siege started on 28 October 1912. The attack was originally carried out by the Montenegrin army under the command of Prince Danilo. However, his forces encountered stiff resistance, and the Serb army sent reinforcements to help its Montenegrin allies.

Radomir Vešović participated in the siege where he was wounded twice,[11] showing an exemptional courage which earned him a golden Obilić Medal and nickname the knight of Brdanjolt (Serbian: витез од Брдањолта).[12]

The combined Turkish and Albanian defenders led by Hasan Riza Pasha and his lieutenant, Esad Pasha Toptani, resisted for seven months and managed to inflict a heavy toll on the besiegers.[13]

Death of Hasan Riza Pasha

On 30 January 1913, Riza Pasha was ambushed and killed by Osman Bali and Mehmet Kavaja,[3] two Albanian servants of Esad Pasha, as he left Esad's house after dining with him.[14] Riza Pasha wanted to keep up the defense of the besieged city but Esad Pasha wanted to continue his secret negotiations with Montenegro, which were done through the counsel of Russia in Scutari. Esad Pasha's plan was to hand over Scutari to the Serbs and Montenegrins as the price for their support in his attempt to proclaim himself King of Albania.[14][15] On 6 February King Nikola received delegation of chieftains from Malësia who stated that they recognize him as their suzerain and requested to join 3000 of their fighters with Montenegrin forces to capture Scutari. On 7 February they were ordered to attack in the direction Jubani—Daut-agha's kulla.[16]


Ottoman flag surrendered to Montenegrin king Nicholas

On 21 April 1913, Esad Pasha made the official proposal to surrender the city to Montenegrin Gen. Vukotic. On April 23 his proposal was accepted and he was allowed to leave the city with full military honors and with all of his troops and equipment, except heavy guns. He also received a sum of £10,000 sterling from the Montenegrin King.[17] Essad Pasha signed the final surrender protocol[1] with the Montenegrins[citation needed] Essad Pasha surrendered Scutari to Montenegro only after its destiny was decided by the Great Powers, after they forced Serbia to retreat and after it was obvious that the Great Powers would not allow Montenegro to keep Scutari. Essad Pasha was able to save many of his soldiers.[18] At the same time he managed to get the support of Serbia and Montenegro for the new Kingdom of Albania, which would gain Scutari indirectly by the Great Powers.[10]


The Rozafa Castle, which was surrounded by invading forces
Caricature shows Albania defending itself from neighboring countries. Montenegro is represented as a monkey, Greece as a leopard and Serbia as a snake. Text in Albanian: "Flee from me! Bloodsucker Beasts!"

The taking of Scutari removed the only obstacle to the Serbian advance in the remainder of Ottoman Albania. By November 1912 the country had declared independence but was yet to be recognized by anyone. The Serbian army eventually occupied most of northern and central Albania, stopping north of the town of Vlorë. It also managed to trap the remains of the Army of Vardar in what was left of Albania proper, but were not able to force them to surrender.[13] However, when the war was over, the Great Powers did not award the city to the Kingdom of Montenegro, which was compelled to evacuate it in May 1913, in accordance with the London Conference of Ambassadors. The army's withdrawal was hastened by a small naval flotilla of British and Italian gunboats that moved up the Bojana River and across the Adriatic coastline. International peace keeping force (Scutari detachment) from five countries—Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany—was deployed in the city and kept until the start of World War I.[19] The Kingdom of Montenegro also later took Metohija, an area of Kosovo.

International reaction

Cultural influences

Albanian novelist Ndoc Nikaj wrote an historical novel titled Shkodra e rrethueme ("Shkodra under siege") in 1913.[21] Bosnian Serb poet Aleksa Šantić wrote To Essad Pasha (Serbian: Esad Paši), inspired by the siege of Scutari.[22]

See also


  1. ^ As the capital of the Ottoman Vilayet of Scutari this city was in the hands of the Turks until April 1913. Viscount James Bryce Bryce, Holland Thompson, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, The Book of History: The Events of 1918. The Armistice and Peace Treaties, The Grolier society, 1921, p. 1125.


  1. ^ a b c Erickson 2003, p. 312.
  2. ^ Somel, Selçuk Akşin. Historical dictionary of the Ottoman Empire. Scarecrow Press Inc. 2003. lxvi.
  3. ^ a b c Vickers 1999, p. 71.
  4. ^ Erickson 2003, p. 237.
  5. ^ a b c Въчков 2005, pp. 138–141.
  6. ^ Abdurrahman Nafiz, Kiramettin, 1912–1913 Balkan Harbinde İşkodra Müdafaası, İstanbul Askerî Matbaa, 1933. (in Turkish)
  7. ^ Genelkurmay Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etüt Başkanlığı, İşkodra Savunması ve Hasan Rıza Paşa, Kültür Bakanlığı Yayınları, 1987. (in Turkish)
  8. ^ []
  9. ^ []
  10. ^ a b Ulli, Prenk (1995). Hasan Riza Pasha: Mbrojtës i Shkodrës në Luftën Ballkanike, 1912–1913. Shkodër, Albania: Albin. pp. 34–40. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  11. ^ Лесковац, Младен; Форишковић, Александар; Попов, Чедомир (2004). Српски биографски речник (in Serbian). Будућност. p. 176). ISBN 9788683651627.
  12. ^ (Čolaković & Čirgić 2008, p. 281)
  13. ^ a b Vlora, bej Eqerem. Lebenserinnerungen ("Memoirs"). Munich. 1968 and 1973.
  14. ^ a b Ulli, Prenk (1995). Hasan Riza Pasha: Mbrojtës i Shkodrës në Luftën Ballkanike, 1912–1913. Shkodër, Albania: Albin. p. 26. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  15. ^ Pearson, Owen. Albania and King Zog: independence, republic and monarchy 1908–1939. I.B. Tauris. 2004. ISBN 1-84511-013-7 p. 38
  16. ^ King Nikola – Personality, Work, and Time. Crnogorska akademija nauka i umjetnosti. 1998. p. 321. ISBN 9788672150988. Retrieved 12 May 2013. Овом приликом замолили су да заједно са црногор- ском војском у заузимању Скадра учествује и 3.000 Малисора. Према заповијести о нападу од 7. фебруара 1913. био им је поверен правац Јубани – кула Даут-аге.
  17. ^ Pearson, Owen. Albania and King Zog: independence, republic and monarchy 1908–1939. I.B. Tauris. 2004. ISBN 1-84511-013-7 p. 41.
  18. ^ "ALBANIA'S FUTURE.; Essad Pasha Appears to be In Full Control There". New York Times. July 6, 1913.
  19. ^ Tibor Balla: The military participation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in the settlement of the Scutari-crisis in journal Academic and Applied Research in Military and Public Management Science (AARMS), 2005, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 100—107
  20. ^ "SCUTARI'S FALL ALARMS EUROPE; Montenegrin Triumph After Six Months' Siege Raises Grave International Difficulties". New York Times. April 24, 1913.
  21. ^ Robert Elsie (2005). Albanian Literature: A Short History. I.B.Tauris. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-84511-031-4.
  22. ^ Šantić, Aleksa (1913). "Esad Paši". Retrieved 14 June 2011.


Further reading

  • Pavlović, Ž. (1926) Opsada Skadra, 1912–1913. Beograd
  • Ratković, B. (1975) Prvi balkanski rat 1912–1913 – operacije srpskih snaga. Beograd: Vojnoistorijski institut, knj. 2
  • Vojvodić, M.S. (1970) Skadarska kriza 1913. god. Beograd
  • Milićević, M. J. (2007). "Vojska Kraljevine Srbije u opsadi Skadra – bitka kod sela Dajči" (PDF). Baština (22): 137–160.

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