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Siege of Scutari (1912–13)

Siege of Scutari
Part of the First Balkan War

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
Date October 28, 1912 – April 23, 1913[1]
Location near Scutari, Scutari Province, Ottoman Empire[dn 1]
(present-day Shkodër, Albania)
Result Status quo ante bellum[2]
Essad Pasha Toptani signed the final surrender protcol on April 23, 1913.[1]
A Peace treaty signed by Esad Pasha and King Nikola, that regive Shkoder to the Albanian territory[3]
 Ottoman Empire
Voulanteer force
volunteers from Kastrati, Hoti and Grudë
Commanders and leaders
Hasan Riza Pasha
Essad Pasha Toptani[4]
King Nikola
Crown Prince Danilo
5,000 Ottomans
10,000 Albanian volunteers
25,000 Montenegrins
Three Serbian Divisions (30,000)
Casualties and losses
Heavy 8,000 Montenegrins killed or wounded
10,000 [6]

The Siege of Scutari took place from October 28, 1912 to April 23, 1913, with allied forces of Montenegro and Serbia against forces of the Ottoman Empire.


  • Naming 1
  • Background 2
  • Start of the war 3
  • Battle 4
    • Death of Hasan Riza Pasha 4.1
    • Surrender 4.2
  • Aftermath 5
  • International reaction 6
  • Cultural influences 7
  • Notes 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10


The Siege of Scutari is also referred to as the Siege of Shkodër,[7] Siege of Shkodra (Albanian: Rrethimi i Shkodrës, Serbian: Опсада Скадра) or Defence of Shkodra.[8] (Turkish: İşkodra Müdafaası[9] or İşkodra Savunması[10])


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. It also enlisted the support of Catholic Albanian tribes across the border who had been fighting the Turkish armies for centuries.[11] Catholic tribes from Northern Albania (Kastrati, together with Hoti and Grude) joined the forces of Kingdom of Montenegro.[12] Scutari had long been desired by Montenegro because it was its capital for 300 years during its first three ruling families.

Start of the war

On 8 October 1912 Gen. Hasan Riza Pasha announced that Montenegro had declared war on the Ottoman Empire 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. 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
— [13]

When the Montenegrins crossed the border, only 10,000 volunteers from Mirdite, led by Gen. Essad Pasha Toptani, were available to defend the city. Two thousand soldiers from Mat, who were led by the 17-year-old Ahmet Bey Zogolli, were trapped by the Serbs in Lezhë, while Turkish troops led by Gen. Mahmoud Jella Hajra, which were located in Berat, were trapped in the field of Myzeqe, under attack by a Serb-Bulgarian army. Hasan Riza Pasha did not expect other reinforcements to reach the 15,000 combatants in the city, who had to face more than 25,000 Montenegrins and 30,000 Serbs.[13]

Scutari withstood the siege of the Montenegrin and Serbian armies for seven months. A total of some 36,000 shells were fired on the city, but still it did not fall into the hands of the attacking armies. It became apparent that Turkey was suffering from domestic problems and would not be able to defend its possessions in the Balkans. It was theorized after the attack that Russia had advised Serbia to conquer as much territory as possible, with the idea that the Conference of Ambassadors, expected to meet in December, would decide the extent of their boundaries in all lands that were under control.[13]


The siege started on October 28, 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. 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.[11]

Death of Hasan Riza Pasha

On January 30, 1913, Riza Pasha was ambushed and killed by Osman Bali and Mehmet Kavaja,[14] two Albanian servants of Esad Pasha, as he left Esad's house after dining with him.[13] 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.[13][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 3,000 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]


On April 21, 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[18] 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,[19] who would otherwise have died defending the city with no hope of prevailing. 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.[13]


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 [6] The Kingdom of Montenegro also later took Metohija, an area of Kosovo-Kosmet.

International reaction

Cultural influences

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


  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 Edward J. Erickson, Defeat in Detail, The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912–1913, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 978-0-275-97888-4, p. 312.
  2. ^ Somel, Selçuk Akşin. Historical dictionary of the Ottoman Empire. Scarecrow Press Inc. 2003. lxvi.
  3. ^ Miranda Vickers (1999). The Albanians: A Modern History. I.B.Tauris. pp. 71–.  
  4. ^ The second in command of the Işkodra Corps, Edward J. Erickson, Defeat in Detail, The Ottoman Army in the Balkans, 1912–1913, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 978-0-275-97888-4, p. 237.
  5. ^ Lufta e Shkodrës. Shkodër: Uli. 1954. p. 301. 
  6. ^ a b Edith Durham, The Struggle for Scutari (Turk, Slav, and Albanian). Edward Arnold. 1914.
  7. ^ Miranda Vickers, The Albanians: A Modern History, I.B.Tauris, 1999, ISBN 978-1-86064-541-9, p. 71.
  8. ^ Robert Elsie, Centre for Albanian Studies, Albanian Literature: A Short History, I.B.Tauris, 2005, ISBN 978-1-84511-031-4, p. 63.
  9. ^ Abdurrahman Nafiz, Kiramettin, 1912-1913 Balkan Harbinde İşkodra Müdafaası, İstanbul Askerî Matbaa, 1933. (Turkish)
  10. ^ Genelkurmay Askeri Tarih ve Stratejik Etüt Başkanlığı, İşkodra Savunması ve Hasan Rıza Paşa, Kültür Bakanlığı Yayınları, 1987. (Turkish)
  11. ^ a b c Vlora, bej Eqerem. Lebenserinnerungen ("Memoirs"). Munich. 1968 and 1973.
  12. ^ Dragoslav Srejović; Slavko Gavrilović; Sima M. Ćirković (1983). Istorija srpskog naroda: knj. Od Berlinskog kongresa do Ujedinjenja 1878-1918 (2 v.). Srpska književna zadruga. p. 248. Retrieved 9 May 2013. Пут до пред сам Скадар био је слободан. Црногорској војсци придружила су се албанска католичка племена Груди, Хоти и Кастрати, преко чијег је земљишта пролазила војска, и тако је њена позадина Оила обезбеђена. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Ulli, Prenk (1995). Hasan Riza Pasha: Mbrojtës i Shkodrës në Luftën Ballkanike, 1912-1913.  
  14. ^ Vickers, Miranda (1999). The Albanians: a modern history+Shkod%C3%ABr&hl=nl&ei=-Pb2TfWEOoufOv6BkbQK&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false Essad+Pasha.  
  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. 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. ^ Edwin E. Jacques, The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present, McFarland, 1995, ISBN 978-0-89950-932-7, p. 344.
  19. ^ "ALBANIA'S FUTURE.; Essad Pasha Appears to be In Full Control There.". New York Times. July 6, 1913. 
  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, Centre for Albanian Studies, Albanian Literature: A Short History, I.B.Tauris, 2005, ISBN 978-1-84511-031-4, p. 89.
  22. ^ Šantić, Aleksa (1913). "Esad Paši". Retrieved 14 June 2011. 

See also


  • Somel, Selçuk Akşin, Historical dictionary of the Ottoman Empire, (Scarecrow Press Inc., 2003).
  • Eqerem bej Vlora, Lebenserinnerungen ('Memoirs'), Munich 1968, 1973.
  • Edith Durham, The Struggle for Scutari (Turk, Slav, and Albanian), (Edward Arnold, 1914)
  • Edith Durham, Twenty Years of Balkan Tangle, (Adamant Media Corporation, April 20, 2005)

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