/kawr"yak/, n., pl. Koryaks, (esp. collectively) Koryak for 1.
1. a member of a Paleo-Asiatic people of northeastern Siberia.
2. the Chukotian language of the Koryak people, closely related to Chukchi.

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▪ okrug, Russia
also spelled  Koriak 

      former autonomous okrug (district), far eastern Russia. In 2007 Koryak was merged with Kamchatka oblast (region) to form Kamchatka kray (territory). The Koryak area occupies the northern half of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the southern end of the Koryak Mountains, and the Penzhina Basin. The relief is rugged and the climate is severe. Vegetation consists of tundra or thin birch forest, with some larch in the Penzhina Basin. The area is very sparsely populated; there are no towns and only several urban settlements, including the administrative centre of the former district, Palana. The chief occupation is fishing (especially for crab) from the small settlements along the coast, while fur hunting and reindeer herding are important inland. A little coal is also mined, and some timber is cut in the Penzhina Basin. The population is composed of Russians (about 65 percent), Koryak (about 20 percent), and small numbers of Ukrainians, Chukchi, and Itelmen. Area 116,400 square miles (301,500 square km). Pop. (2006 est.) 25,157.

      indigenous people of the Russian Far East, numbering about 7,900 in the late 20th century and living mostly in the Koryak autonomous okrug (district) of the northern Kamchatka Peninsula. The Koryak languages belong to the Luorawetlan language family of the Paleosiberian group.

      The Koryak are probably indigenous inhabitants of the northeastern shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, whence they spread eastward. At the time of the Russian annexation (late 17th to early 18th century) there were about 13,000 Koryaks. Some were nomadic reindeer keepers of the inland areas, while others were sedentary coastal dwellers who engaged in sea-mammal hunting and fishing and used dogsleds for transportation. Coastal Koryak settlements (some of them fortified) consisted of semisubterranean winter dwellings and summer tents on poles.

      There was no public authority among the Koryak, or any tribal or clan organization. Their customs included monogamous patrilocal marriage and patrilineal kinship. Professional and family shamanism was practiced, “transvestites” being considered the effective shamans. Wolves were regarded by the Koryak as their relatives, and an important place was accorded in their mythology to the raven.

      Resistance to the Russians weakened the Koryak, and they became an easy prey to their nearest neighbours to the north, the Chukchi, whose raids, and a smallpox epidemic in the late 18th century, reduced the number of Koryak by half. The Koryak still largely follow their traditional occupations.

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