Vasil Koci: The Albanian "Wolf" Who Ruled Moldova for 19 Years

Portrait of Vasile Lupu on the Romanian Athaeneum wall.
Portrait of Vasile Lupu on the Romanian Athaeneum wall, source: Wikipedia
 Marin Mema, a prominent journalist and author of "Other Albania," recently shed light on a figure less explored by Albanian historiography – Vasil Koci, widely known as Vasil Lupu, the man who held the throne as the prince of Moldova for over 19 years. Often referred to as the "wolf" due to the numerous intrigues that propelled him to power, Vasil Koci's story remains a fascinating chapter in Albanian history.

The Origins of the Koci Family:

While the exact origins of the Koci family are not definitively established, there are several theories. One suggests their roots in Southern Albania, with migration to the village of Arbanas in Bulgaria, where an Albanian community still resides. Another theory places them near the town of Razgrad after arriving in Bulgaria. Despite uncertainties, researchers and historians unanimously agree on Vasil Koci's Albanian heritage, as he proudly identified himself as such.

Early Life and Rise to Power:

Born in 1595 to Nikoll Koci, one of eight children, Vasil's family settled in Romanian territories after an unsuccessful uprising. Following his father's death, they moved to Moldova, marking the beginning of Vasil's remarkable journey. Vasil held significant positions during the rule of Miron Barnovchi and, in 1634, became the prince of Moldavia after successfully countering local nobility opposition.

Achievements and Reforms:

Vasil Koci's reign was marked not only by military success but also by modernizing reforms and enduring investments. Recognized as the first ruler to codify laws in Moldova, Vasil's Romanesca de Invitatura, or the Code of Vasil Lupu, prioritized not only the legal aspects but also the Romanian language. His reign witnessed a cultural renaissance with the founding of the Vasilian Academy in 1640, the establishment of the University of Laish's library, and the introduction of the first printing press.

Diplomacy and Legacy:

Vasil Koci emerged as a skilled leader on both domestic and diplomatic fronts. His diplomatic ties extended to Vienna, Warsaw, Moscow, among others. Vasil's influence even reached conflicts in Crimea and the Turkish-Russian crisis over Azov. A patron of orthodoxy, he invested substantial funds in churches, monasteries, and charitable activities, leaving an indelible mark on Moldova's cultural and religious landscape.

Downfall and Exile:

Driven by territorial ambitions, Vasil's military campaigns led to conflicts with Wallachia's Prince Matei Basarab, his former ally. Despite an alliance with Cossack soldier Bohdan Chmelnyckij, the Albanian ruler faced defeat in battles, leading to a rebellion by Moldovan nobles. In 1653, Vasil was dethroned, and Gheorghe Stefan succeeded him. Vasil spent years in exile in Istanbul, attempting but failing to regain power.

Legacy and End:

Vasil Koci passed away in 1661 in Istanbul, having witnessed his son Stefan Lupu briefly ascend the throne. His body now rests in the cathedral of Three Hierarchs in Lashi. Vasil Lupu paved the way for subsequent Albanian rulers in Moldova and left an enduring legacy in the region's history.


Vasil Koci, the "Albanian Wolf" who ruled Moldova, remains a complex and influential figure in Albanian history. His achievements, reforms, and diplomatic prowess, coupled with his eventual downfall and exile, create a compelling narrative of a ruler whose impact is felt centuries later.
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