|Lekë Dukagjini (1410-1481) was an Albanian prince who fought against the Ottoman Empire. A contemporary of Skanderbeg, Dukagjini is known for a code of law instituted in northern Albania.|
Dukagjini is thought to have been born in Lipljan in Kosovo in 1410. The County of Dukagjini had its center in Lezhë, and included Zadrima, the areas north and northeast of Shkodër, and expanded far north up to the territories of what today constitutes Kosovo, having as a second center the town of Lipljan.
By the time he took over the ruling of the county from his father Prince Pal Dukagjini in 1446, Dukagjini had gained an overall knowledge, inspired by the European Renaissance humanism of towns such as Venice, Ragusa and Shkodër, and had studied in Prizren. He led the League of Lezhë in 1444.
Dukagjini fought under the command of Skanderbeg against the Ottomans. During times of peace they also fought against one another at times, as Albanian loyalties came and went during that period of their history. Dukagjini continued to fight against the Ottoman Empire, carrying on as the leader of the Albanian resistance after the death of Skanderbeg, until his own death in 1481. At times his forces united with the Venetians with the blessing of the papacy.
Overshadowed by the legend of Skanderbeg, Dukagjini is little-known, and is most well-known for the set of laws ruling the highlands of northern Albania, known as the Kanuni. While identifying Skanderbeg as the dragon prince who dared to fight against any foe; chronicles portrayed Dukagjini as the angel prince who, with dignity and wisdom, ensured the continuity of the Albanian identity.
The set of laws were active in practice for a long time, but it was not gathered and codified until the late 19th century by Shtjefën Gjeçov. The most infamous laws of Kanuni are those regulating blood feuds. Blood feuds have started once again in northern Albania (but have since spread to other parts of Albania, and even to expatriates abroad) after the fall of communism in the early 1990s, having been outlawed for many years during the regime of Enver Hoxha.
His military success against the Ottomans was never extremely successful, as his military abilities fell short of those of Skanderbeg. He also lacked the ability to unite the country and the Albanian people in the way that Skanderbeg had. Loyalties wavered, and splintered, betrayals were common, and Albania fell into complete submission to the Ottomans by the end of the 15th century.