European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 399–420 | Cite as

Irrationality, Liminality and the Demand for Illicit Firearms in the Balkans and the North Caucasus

  • Jana ArsovskaEmail author
  • Yuliya G. Zabyelina


Most conventional approaches to the study of arms trafficking are grounded on the assumption that people are rational and always seek the most cost-effective means to achieve a goal. This article discusses the illicit firearms markets in the Balkans and the North Caucasus—the regions in which trafficking of illicit firearms has been flourishing since the early 1990s. By studying the demand side of this illicit market, it provides some possible explanations as to why numerous arms reduction measures have had limited results. It argues that cultural attitudes, socio-political complexity and emotions could explain much of the “irrational” behavior of those demanding weapons in these regions. The article contributes to the scholarly debate on the applicability of the rational choice theory-inspired arms reduction policies in highly textured sociocultural contexts. It is an effort to construct multifaceted conceptualization of human choice that focuses not only on the functionality of firearms but also on their symbolic and situational meaning.


Balkans Bounded rationality Chechnya Illicit firearms Liminality Rational choice theory SALW 



Support for this project was provided by a PSC-CUNY Award, jointly funded by The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentJohn Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.School of LawUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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