- See also: Koryakia Autonomous District
Koryaks, a Mongoloid people of northeastern Siberia, inhabiting 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 on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Koryak language and its relative, Alutor, are linguistically very close to Chukchi. They are members of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family.
Koryaks are divided into the settled fishing tribes and the nomadic reindeer breeders and hunters. The former are described as being hopelessly poor. The Koryaks of the interior, on the other hand, still own enormous reindeer herds, to which they are so attached that they refuse to part with an animal to a stranger at any price. They are in disposition brave, intelligent and self-reliant, and recognize no master. They have ever tenaciously resisted Russian aggression, and in their fights with the Cossacks have proven themselves recklessly brave. When outnumbered they would kill their women and children, set fire to their homes, and die fighting. Families usually gather into groups of six or seven, forming miniature states, in which the nominal chief has no predominating authority, but all are equal. The Koryaks are polygamous, earning their wives by working for their fathers-in-law. The women and children are treated well, and Koryak courtesy and hospitality are proverbial. The chief wedding ceremony is a forcible abduction of the bride. They kill the aged and infirm, in the belief that to save them thus from protracted suffering is the highest proof of affection. The victims choose their mode of death, and young Koryaks practise the art of giving the fatal blow quickly and mercifully. Infanticide was formerly common, and one of a set of twins was always sacrificed. They burn their dead. The prevailing religion is Shamanism; sacrifices are made to evil spirits, the heads of the victims being placed on stones facing east.
See G. Kennan, Tent Life in Siberia (1871); "Über die Koriaken u. ihnen nähe verwandten Tchouktchen," in But. Acad. Sc. St. Petersburg, xii. 99.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.