Shkodra, also known as Shkodër, Skadar, and Scutari, was both a strategic town and an important region of Albania Veneta. After being held by the Balšić (Balsha) noble family since 1355, Shkodra was taken by the Ottomans in 1393, retaken by Đurađ II Balšić in 1395, then ceded (along with the nearby fortresses of Drivast, Dagnum and Šas) to the Republic of Venice in 1396.:305
Sultan Mehmed II had already conquered Constantinople in 1453, but now desired to dominate the Albanian coastline and be better poised to cross the Adriatic and march upon Rome.:134 Scanderbeg had thwarted Ottoman success in Albania for a quarter of a century; his League of Lezha, a united front of Albanian forces which was formed in 1444 to resist the Ottomans, had collapsed in 1450. Scanderbeg died in 1468; nevertheless, Kruja and some northern Albanian garrisons were still holding with Venetian support.
The Venetians and the Ottoman Empire had been at war since 1463, the Ottoman Empire seeking expansion and the Venetians seeking to secure their trading colonies. Venice held and was arming a number of Albanian towns, including Shkodra, which it had taken in 1396:68 and renamed Scutari. By 1466 Venice considered Shkodra the heart and capital of Albania Veneta.:531
Shkodra was so important to the Empire’s aims that, shortly after the siege, Ottoman chronicler Ashik Pashazade called it "the hope of passage to the lands of Italy." The Ottomans attempted to take Shkodra in the siege of 1474. Sultan Mehmed II's commander Suleiman Pasha failed; therefore the Ottomans retreated and the sultan planned a more powerful offensive.
Meanwhile, Mehmed II had demanded that Venice surrender Kruja, Shkodra, and other Albanian towns in exchange for peace, and added leverage to this demand by instructing Iskender Bey, the sanjak bey of Bosnia to invade Friuli. Count Carlo da Braccio repulsed the invaders, but before returning to Bosnia, "the Turkish bands nevertheless did enormous damage and carried away large numbers of men and cattle." Despite these losses, Venice refused to yield to Mehmed II's demands to surrender Shkodra, being its "last bastion in the East.":360–361 In 1477 the Ottomans captured most of the nearby territory of Zeta together with Žabljak and defeated the main army of Ivan Crnojević late in 1477 or early 1478. Crnojević soon recovered Žabljak but held it only briefly while the Ottomans concentrated on their attack on Shkodra. Among the population of Shkodra there were people who were suspected to be connected to the Ottomans and who supported the surrender of the city.