Shkodra (alb. Shkodër), the largest city in the north of Albania (87,500 inhabitants, 2008 estimate), is located on the east side of Shkodra Lake, on the southern part of the Mbishkodra plain, between the rivers Drini and Buna. The city is one of the oldest in Albania and it is also an important cultural and economic center.
Shkodra has been inhabited continuously since its foundation in the 4th century BC. It was the chief town of Illyrian tribe of Labeats and later on during the reign of King Gent and Queen Teuta the chief centre of the Illyrian state. In the year 168 BC, the city was taken by the Romans and it became an important trade and military route for them. In 1040 AD, Shkodra was captured by the Serbs and became an important economic and administrative center. In 1396, the city came under Venetian rule, forming a coalition against Ottoman Empire. Despite resisting attacks for some years, Shkodra fell under Turkish rule in 1479. Many inhabitants fled shortly after the occupation that devastated the city. It did not gain its prosperity until about the 17th century.
During its long history, the city has played important role in Albanian culture and history. In the southerly part of the city rises the Castle of Rozafa, and in the surrounding neighbourhood there are prehistoric burial grounds and both ancient and medieval fortified settlements.
Today the city and the area around it is blessed with numerous different natural and cultural objects. The city retains its characteristic appearance with narrow streets with tall stone walls on both sides and tall gates. After World War II, Shkodra rebuilt with wider streets and new residential buildings. These were built in several new quarters.
Apart from being a historic centre, Shkodra has always been a centre of education, culture, and trade. It has always developed and maintained links to the West, especially to Italy and Austria. Shkodra is also the centre of Albanian Catholicism as well as a fine example of tolerance between religions, with the city comprising all the major faiths found in Albania.
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