|Koryak ceremony of starting the New Fire.|
|8,812 (2002 Census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
Koryaks (or Koriak) are an indigenous people of Kamchatka Krai in the Russian Far East, who inhabit the coastlands of the Bering Sea to the south of the Anadyr basin and the country to the immediate north of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the southernmost limit of their range being Tigilsk. They are akin to the Chukchis, whom they closely resemble in physique and manner of life. Also, they are distantly related to the Kamchadal (Itelmens) on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Koryak are typically split into two groups: the coastal people Nemelan (or Nymylan) meaning 'village dwellers' due to their sedentary fishing habits; and the inland Koryaks, reindeer herders called Chaucu (or Chauchuven) meaning 'rich in reindeer' who are more nomadic.
The name Koryak was from the exonym word 'Korak' meaning 'with the reindeer (kor)' in a nearby group Chukotko-Kamchatkan language. The earliest references to the name 'Koryak' were recorded in the writings of the Russian cossack Vladimir Atlasov who conquered Kamchatka for the Tsar in 1695. The variant name was adopted by Russia in official state documents, hence popularizing it ever since.
The origin of the Koryaks is currently unknown. Anthropologists have speculated that a land bridge connected the Eurasian and North American continent during Late Pleistocene. It is thus possible that people crossed the modern-day Koryaks land en route to North America. It has further been suggested that people traveled back and forth between the two areas before the ice age receded, and that the ancestors of the Koryaks had returned to Siberian Asia from North America. Cultural and some linguistic similarity exist between the Nivkh and the Koryaks.
Koryaks once roamed a much larger area of the Russian Far East. Their overlapping borders extended to the Nivkh areas in Khabarovsk Krai until Evens arrived and pushed them into their present region. Warfare with Russian Cossacks and a smallpox epidemic in 1769-1770 reduced the Koryak population from 10-11,000 in 1700 to 4,800 in 1800. A Koryak Autonomous Okrug was formed in 1931 named after Koryak, but this was merged with Kamchatka Krai effective July 1, 2007.
Families usually gathered into groups of six or seven, forming bands, in which the nominal chief had no predominating authority, resembling common small group egalitarianism. Life revolved around Reindeer. It was the main source of food. The meat was mostly eaten roasted and the blood, marrow and milk are drunk or eaten raw. The liver, heart, kidneys and tongue were delicacies. Salmon and other freshwater fish as well as berries and roots played a major part in the diet, as reindeer flesh did not contain some necessary vitamins, minerals, nor dietary fibre, needed to survive in the harsh tundra. Cheese, butter and fermented milk are produced from the milk. These days, the Koryaks also have processed food like bread, cereal and tinned fish. The Koryaks also sell reindeer every year to make money but regain their herds due to the large population of reindeer.
Clothing was made out of reindeer hides but nowadays men and women replace the material with cloth. The men wore baggy pants and a hide shirt which often has a hood attached to it, boots and traditional caps are still worn and made of reindeer skin. The women wore the same as the men but with a longer shirt reaching to the calves. Nowadays women wear a head cloth and skirt but wear the reindeer skin robe in cold weather. The Koryak lived in conical shaped huts like a tipi but less vertical. It was covered in many reindeer skins and it was called a chum. Many families still live in these, but some live in log cabins. The centre of the chum had a hearth which is now replaced by an iron stove. Reindeer hide beds are placed to the east of the chum while small cupboards holding the families' food, clothing and personal possessions are stored.
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The Koryaks used reindeer to get around but also fitted sleds on a team of reindeer when moving camp. Nowadays snowmobiles are used too, and reindeer very little. Most inter-village transport is by air or boat, although tracked vehicles are used for travel to neighboring villages.
Children were taught to ride a reindeer and sleigh at a very young age. The reindeer have their horns cut off to make sure the rider doesn't get hurt. Snowshoes are used in winter when the snow is too deep. Snowshoes are made by lashing reindeer sinew and hide strips to a tennis racket-shaped birch bark or willow hoop. The sinew straps are used to attach the shoe to the foot.
Koryaks practice a form of animist belief system especially via shamanism. Koryak mythology centers around the supernatural shaman Quikil (Big-Raven) who was the first man and protector of the Koryak. Big Raven myths are also found in the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and other Northwest Coast Amerindians.
Koryak lands are mountains and volcanic covered in mostly Arctic tundra. Coniferous trees lie near the southern regions near the coast of the Shelekhova Bay of the Sea of Okhotsk. The northern regions inland are much colder only with various shrubs, but enough to sustain reindeer migration. The mean temperature in winter is –25 °C (-13 °F) while short summers are +12 °C (53 °F). The area they covered before Russian colonization was 301,500 km² (116,410 mi²), roughly corresponding to the Koryak Okrug, of which the administrative centre is Palana. The Koryaks are the largest minority group with 8,743 people among the larger mostly Russian Cossack colonizers.
See also 
- Russian Census 2010: Population by ethnicity (Russian)
-  State statistics committee of Ukraine - National composition of population, 2001 census] (Ukrainian)
- Chaussonnet, p28-29
- Kolga, pp.230-234
- Al'kor, Ia P., and A. K. Dranen 1935 Kolonial'naia politika tsarizzna na Kamchatke. Leningrad: Tsentral'nyi istoricheskii arkhiv. Leningradskoe otdelenie.
- Friedrich and Diamond,
- "Indigenous Peoples of the Russian North, Siberia and Far East" by Arctic Network for the Support of the Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Arctic
- Jochelson, Waldemar. 1908. The Koryak. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History vol. 10, parts 1–2: The Jesup North Pacific Expedition. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
- King, Alexander D. 2011. Living with Koryak Traditions: Playing with Culture in Siberia. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
- Chaussonnet, Valerie (1995) Native Cultures of Alaska and Siberia. Arctic Studies Center. Washington, D.C. 112p. ISBN 1-56098-661-1
- Friedrich and Diamond (1994) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia- China. Volume 6. G.K.Hall and Company. Boston, Massachusetts. ISBN 0-8161-1810-8
- Kolga, Margus (2001) The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire. NGO Red Book. Tallinn, Estonia 399p ISBN 9985-9369-2-2
- Gall, Timothy L. (1998) Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life:Koriaks. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Inc. 2100p. ISBN 0-7876-0552-2
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Further reading 
- G. Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia (1871); "Über die Koriaken u. ihnen nähe verwandten Tchouktchen," in But. Acad. Sc. St. Petersburg, xii. 99.
- Jochelson, Waldemar. The Koryak. New York: AMS Press, 1975. ISBN 0-404-58106-4
- Jochelson, Vladimir Il'ich, and F. Boas. Religion and Myths of the Koryak Material Culture and Social Organization of the Koryak. New York: [s.n.], 1908.
- Nagayama, Yukari ed. The Magic Rope Koryak Folktale. Kyoto, Japan: ELPR, 2003.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Koriaks.|
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