Of Illyrian origin, the Albanian clans were compelled to recognize the suzerainty of the expanding Ottoman empire in 1385. Split since 1054 between Rome (Catholics) and Constantinople (Orthodox), many Albanians converted to Islam and were able to rise high in the Ottoman administration. One such was Gjergj Kastrioti (1405–68), sumamed Skanderbeg, who defected from his Turkish commandership in 1443, reconverted to Christianity and maintained, with help from Naples, Venice and the Papal States, a guerrilla resistance to the Turks. In 1431 the Turks introduced a fiefdom system, whereby land was held in return for military or civil service. These fiefdoms became hereditary estates, and a class of large landowners developed. With the decline of central power, some lords acquired a wide measure of local autonomy.
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