Shkodër is a city and municipality in northwestern Albania. It is one of the oldest and most historic places in the Balkan peninsula, as well as an important cultural and economic centre. In classical times, Shkodër was known under the name of Scodra and was the capital of the Illyrian Labeates.
During many different epochs it has retained its status as a major city in the wider region, due to its geostrategic positioning close to the Adriatic Sea and the Italian port cities, but also with land-routes to other important cities and towns in neighbouring regions.
Its importance is heightened by the Lake Shkodër to the west of the city — the largest lake in Southern Europe — that straddles Albania and Montenegro. With a population of 77.075, it is the largest city in north of the country, while Shkodër County had a population of 215,347 as of 2011.
Shkodër is a city with a rich history dating from the Bronze Age back 2000 to 3000 years ago to the present day. In classical times, the city was known as Scodra. In the middle of the 3rd century BC, it was the capital city of the first Kingdom of the Illyrian tribe of the Ardiaei, that settled on the Adriatic coast. Queen Teuta, King Agron, and King Gentius, were among the most famous personalities of the Labeates.
The city was first mentioned during the antiquity as the site of the Illyrian Labeates -in which he minted coins- and that of Queen Teuta. In 168 BC, the city was captured by the Romans and became an important trade and military route. The Romans colonized the town. Scodra remained in the province of Illyricum, and later Dalmatia. By it 395 AD, it was part of the Diocese of Dacia, within Praevalitana.
Shkodër is the largest city in the north of Albania and is situated on the east side of Lake Shkodër, on the southern part of the Mbishkodra plain, between the rivers Drin and Buna. Lake Shkodër lies on the border of Albania and Montenegro. It is the largest lake in Southern Europe. The Buna river connects the lake with the Adriatic Sea, and the Drin River provides a link with the Ohrid Lake. It is a cryptodepression, filled by the river Morača and drained into the Adriatic by the 41 km (25 mi) long Buna, which forms the international border on the lower half of its length.
Lake Shkodër has 48 fish species of which 15 are endemic. The best known are: bleak, eel, mullet, grasshoppers and others. Bleak is particularly interesting because it lives exclusively in the Skadar Lake. It is an indigenous species and in her honor every year. In combination with Crmnicko wine this fish represents the specialty of Lake Skadar.
Shkodër is the 4th populous city in Albania and the largest city in the Shkodër County. According to the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the city of Shkodër include 77.075 people as of the 2011 Census. About 197.357 (91.65%) of the population are Albanians, 694 (0.32%) Egyptians, 282 (0.13%) Montenegrins and 13.665 (6.35%) did not declare their ethnicity.
The city of Shkodër was one of the most important centers for Islamic scholars and cultural and literary activity in Albania. Here stands the site of the only institution in Albania which provides high-level education in Arabic, Turkish and Islamic Studies. Shkodër is the center of Roman Catholicism in Albania. The Roman Catholic Church is represented in Shkodër by the episcous religpal of the Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Shkodër-Pult (Scutari-Pulati) in Shkodër Cathedral, with the current seat of the prelacy. According to Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), Catholics make up about 47% of the population followed by Muslims (including the Bektashi minority) with 45%. About 1.5% of the population identify as some denomination of Christians, 0.14% are Atheists and 0.31% identify themselves as believers without denomination.
The present municipality, which now extends from the Albanian Alps to the Adriatic Sea, was formed at the 2015 local government reform by the merger of the former municipalities Ana e Malit, Bërdicë, Dajç, Guri i Zi, Postribë, Pult, Rrethinat, Shalë, Shkodër, Shosh and Velipojë, that became municipal units. The seat of the municipality is the city Shkodër. The total population is 135,612 (2011 census), in a total area of 872.71 km2. The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 77,075.
The main activities of the processing industry in Shkodra were the processing of tobacco and manufacture of cigarettes, production of conserved foods, sugar - based foods, soft and alcoholic drinks, and pasta, bread, rice and vegetable oil. The main activities of the textile industry were focused on garments and silk products. The city also had a wood-processing and paper-production plant. The most important mechanical engineering industries concerned wire manufacturing, elevator manufacturing, bus assembly and the Drini Plant.
According to the World Bank, Shkodër has made significant steps of starting a business in 2016. Shkodër ranks 8 among 22 cities in Southeastern Europe before the capital Tirana, Belgrade, Serbia and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Shkodër is an important educational and industrial center. The city produces various mechanical and electrical components, along with textile and food products. Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkodër is one of the more prestigious learning centers of Albania. The public library of the city contains more than 250,000 books. Other cultural institutions include the Cultural Center, the Marubi Photo Archives, the Artists and Writers Association, the Migjeni Theatre (named after Millosh Gjergj Nikolla), the Gallery of Arts and the Museum of History. Historic cultural architecture includes the Castle of Shkodër, the Turkish Bath, and the Lead Mosque. The Castle of Shkodër became famous during the First Balkan War when it was protected by the Turkish general Hasan Riza Pasha and Esad Pasha. Many festivals take place on an annual basis such as Carnival, Children Festival, Lake Day and Shkodra Jazz Fest.