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The unknown Bushatllins, how they turned Shkodra into a prosperous city

The unknown Bushatllins, how they turned Shkodra into a prosperous city

In the middle of the 18th century, or three centuries after the era of Gjergj Kastriot Skanderbeg, history would know another famous Albanian who would appear with both the appearance and the fury of a young Skanderbeg.

It was Mahmut Pasha Bushati, also known as Karamahmut Bushatlliu, who would come to the helm of the Pashallëk of Shkodra in 1778, exactly 300 years after the fall of the city to the Ottomans, in the epilogue of the legendary resistance of Skanderbeg and his comrades .

Tied in alliance with the leaders of Northern Albania, both Catholics and Muslims, just like his predecessor, he would turn Shkodra Castle into an invincible fortress, surviving two sieges and using and developing the same tactics. fighting as well as Skanderbeg.

On the other hand, thanks to ingenuity and reforms, Shkodra and its surroundings are experiencing an economic boom, trade with Western and Eastern Europe marks golden times, and, consequently, Albanians would remember this period as the era of abundance, when vizier lunches were consumed.

Everything that was happening had to do with the weakening of the Empire. A situation that, about 20 years ago, was sniffed and skillfully exploited by Mahmut's father, - Mehmet Pasha Bushati, the first of the Albanian Dynasty of Bushatllinj of Shkodra.

Mehmet Bushati proclaimed himself ruler of the Sandzak of Shkodra in 1757. Certainly the High Gate, or the Central Government, could not agree with his action. He could not declare himself a Sanjak leader, as this artifact belonged to the central government in Istanbul for centuries.

But history says that, despite the illegality, Mehmet Bushati was officially appointed Governor of Shkodra.

While historians do not have a unified version that explains how he managed to convince the central government. Thus, an Italian historian named Arturo Galanti, writes that Mehmeti used a trick similar to what 3 centuries ago Skanderbeg had used to take Kruja.

According to him, Mehmeti had taken hostage a young Pasha whom Porta had sent to extinguish the quarrels born between the two main neighborhoods of the city, Tabakëve and Terzinjve. Keeping him locked up in his house, he forces the young Pasha to write a letter to the Central Government, stating that no one else could be as worthy and capable of ruling Shkodra as Mehmet Bushatlliu.

The truth says that Mehmet Bushati managed to get an official appointment from the High Gate thanks to the support he had mainly from the people and especially from the merchants from Shkodra. Convinced that Mehmet Bushati was the right man to defend their interests, it seems they influenced the central authorities to turn a blind eye by signing his appointment.

After consolidating power in Shkodra and the surrounding area, after clearing or expelling all direct or potential opponents, Mehmet Bushati makes plans to expand power.

By force he manages to unite the Dukagjini sanjak with the Shkodra one and through pressure he manages to appoint two of his sons at the head of the Ohrid and Skopje sanjaks.

The High Gate does not appear against in any case. This is due to the fact that in this period Shkodra was placed in a strategic position, near the front of military operations with the Austrians and Russians. On the other hand, the High Gate desperately needed the soldiers that Mehmet Bushati recruited and sent to the battle line. Exactly this opportunistic situation helped Mehmet Pasha to expand the territory, to negotiate the appointments of the boys, laying the foundations of the Pashallëk of Shkodra ..

Mehmet Pasha knew the weaknesses of the Ottomans. He uses the defeat of the Ottoman Fleet in battle with the Russian fleet, located near the Greek island of Chios, in July 1770, to make a bold request to the High Gate: To give him the high title of Vizier and to appoint him head of the the new military fleet, which he himself undertook to build on the Albanian coast.

The dream becomes reality. In March 1772, when Porta gave Mehmet Bushatlli the high title "Vizier", he sent him a large sum of money to build ships and at the same time appointed Mahmud, his favorite son, as governor of Shkodra.

The story goes that after receiving the title of Vizier, Mehmet Pasha the Elder began to ignore the tasks given by the High Gate. What stood out most was the fact that he was endlessly delaying the launch of his troops against the Albanian rebels of Morea in the Peloponnese - an operation he was to carry out as part of the assistance to be given to the Central Government.

But even the High Gate always had a key to weakening the powers of the disobedient. The old Roman formula "divide and rule" had been successful for the Ottoman Empire as well. Thus, in order to bring them into conflict, the High Gate deprives the Bushatllins and passes to Ahmet Kurt Pasha of Berat the collection of taxes and control of the Port of Durres. That would be enough for the war to break out.

It was during this difficult period, in July 1775, that under unknown circumstances, Mehmet Pasha the Elder lost his life.

According to Elena Gjika, known as Dora D'Istria, Romanian publicist and writer of Albanian origin, who lived in the 19th century, Mehmet Pasha was killed by the Ottomans.

"The High Gate could not help but see without worrying an Albanian dynasty to settle in Shkodra. Mehmet was killed by order of the padishah. "Mustafa, his first child, also had a tragic end, because he was poisoned in More and the other son, Ahmed, was beheaded by order of Serasqer of Rumelia".

After the death of Mehmet Pasha the Elder, the High Gate hurries to appoint a foreign pasha in his place, but the people of Shkodra do not accept him. Power passes to Mustafa, the eldest son of Mehmet Bushatlli, who manages to maintain the position of Pashallëk, but who does not stand out as a strong leader.

Arriving at the head of the Pashallëk of Shkodra, only Mahmud Pasha, his brother would ascend to the height of his father, Mehmet Pasha the Elder. Only Mahmoud would demonstrate the personality of a warrior and politician of levels who rarely fired into the Balkan territories. But who was this man?

According to the memoirs of one of his guardians, the Catholic clergyman, Father Balneo, Mahmud from his youth was well educated by acquiring knowledge on both sides, both Western and Eastern culture, while the story that shocked him most was that of his compatriot - Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu.

From Father Balneos, we also have the messages that the father, Mehmeti, had left to his son.

"Always remember that people want to live in peace, prosperity and justice. That is why I have tried to be fair and impartial on religious and factional issues. To me people are all equal whether rich or poor, citizens, peasants or highlanders, Christians or Muslims. I have fought the barbarians and those who support them. I have secured land and sea routes, because life and wealth circulate through them. ”

In fact, the true value of the Pashallëk of Shkodra would be measured by economic development. Old documents attest to the golden age of the Bushatllins and especially the development of trade. Mehmet Pasha the Elder himself claimed that Shkodra was so economically developed that only Istanbul could pass it, and that the Bushatllinj family, as well as the merchants of Shkodra, had abundant incomes.

Yes let us bring some significant figures. The merchants from Shkodra who sold goods in Venice and imported products required in the markets of the Paschal of Shkodra were a total of 804, of which 128 were of the Christian religion. According to some historical sources, the merchants of Shkodra became so powerful that they began to influence the markets of Venice, from where they imported velvet, glass products, pieces of silk produced in several colors and paper.

Mahmud Pasha Bushati emerges as an energetic leader. He not only expands the borders of Pashallëk in the territories where his father had possessions, but pushes further, especially to the north….

* This is an article produced by ABC News and re-posted on