Pogradec is a city and municipality in central Albania, situated on the shores of the Ohrid lake. The lake is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. It is located in the County of Korçë.
This city is surrounded by hills on the southern and western side. The lake is in the eastern and northern side of the city. The highway linking to Tirana, Elbasan and Korçë passes through the city. It is located southeast of Elbasan, southwest of Ohrid in North Macedonia, north of Korçë and northwest of Florina in Greece.
It was formed at the 2015 local government reform by the merger of the former municipalities Buçimas, Çërravë, Dardhas, Pogradec, Proptisht, Trebinjë, Udenisht and Velçan, that became municipal units. The seat of the municipality is the town Pogradec. The total population is 61,530 (2011 census), in a total area of 703.37 km2. The population of the former municipality at the 2011 census was 20,848. Pogradec alone occupies about 15 km².
The earliest human traces in Pogradec area belong to the Early Neolithic period, 8600 cal. B.P, when a small settlement was formed by the shore of the lake in the eastern part of the modern city.
“In the Balkan Eneolithic period there were settlements on piles at the north end of Lake Ohrid by the outflow; at the east end of Lake Malik by the outflow; on one side of Lake Prespa; on the east side of Lake Kastoria; and on one side of Lake Rudnik (Khimadhitis). The later settlements at Malik were not on piles; the level of that Lake was lower throughout the Bronze Age. When Polybius wrote of the account which was used by Strabo, there were two lakes near Lychnidus with their own self-supporting factories for pickling fish. The two lakes which satisfy this description are Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa.
The area around Lychnidus was inhabited by the Illyrian tribe of the Enchelii. In antiquity it was at the border between Chaonia and Illyria. During the 5th and 4th century B.C the area was the center of the First Illyrian Kingdom led by king Bardylis and his son Cleitus. Many cities were developed in the area during this time. Among them was the capital of the Illyrian Kingdom, Pelion which is believed to be situated in the modern-village of Selce e Poshtme in Mokra region and Enchelana, situated on the top of the hill overlooking Pogradec. During the Roman period the area remained as an important connection point between the Adriatic coast and the inner Balkan lands as Via Egnatia, that connected the Adriatic port of Dyrrachium (modern-day Durrës) with Byzantium, passed next to the shoreline of Lake Ohrid. Christianity was spread in the area from its beginning. This is proved by the existence of the Paleo-Christian Basilica of Lin, a trichonch church whose floors are made of mosaics.
The South Slavs began to arrive in the area during the 6th century AD. By the early 7th century it was colonized by a Slavic tribe known as the Berziti. From the 8th until the 14th century, Pogradec area was captured by various medieval states such as the Bulgarian, Byzantine and Serbian Empires as well as by noble Albanian families such as Gropa and Balsa. In the middle of 15th century the area became part of Skanderbeg state and after his death in 1468, it was invaded by the Ottomans who kept it until Albania’s Independence in 1912. During their occupation Pogradec was the center of the kaza of Starova and was developed as a small town of craftsmen and fishermen. When the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi visited the area in 1662 he wrote that “Pogradec was a sweet city with red roofs, four neighborhoods, four mosques, two elementary schools, six hundred houses and one hundred and fifty shops“.
During the second half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, Pogradec area played an important role in the Albanian National Renaissance. In 14 March 1887 the second Albanian language school was started here.
During WWI Pogradec became a battlefield divided between the enemy fronts. From 1914 until 1920 Austro-Hungarian, Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian and French armies, captured the city replacing each-other from time to time.
During WWII the city was first invaded by the Italian army in 12 April 1939. Italian occupation of Pogradec was interrupted due to Greco-Italian War and Greek troops occupied the city between 30 November 1940 and 14 April 1941. After Italy’s capitulation in 1943 the Italians were replaced by the German Nazis who kept the city until 30 August 1944 when it was liberated by the Albanian partizans.
After the war the town was a favorite summer escape for many communist government officials and particularly Enver Hoxha. The summer residences and the area around them were sealed off from the public.
The area of Pogradec is the site of a possible UNESCO World Heritage site.