Koryaks (The People of Russian North)

At the beginning of our era on the shores of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk was formed an ethnic group with an unusual culture and unique worldview.

Gradually Koryaks populated the mainland Kamchatka, where they still live today.

Where does the Name “Koryak” Come from?


The term “Koryak” appeared in the 17th century among the Russians who were actively exploring the region. There are several theories about its origin:

  • From the word “karaka”, which means “one who is visible from over the hill”, that is just “a person who is afar.” Perhaps later what word was transformed into “Koryak”.
  • According to a different theory, the name of the peoples comes from the Koryak word for “deer”.

Koryaks Call Themselves Differently

Koryaks form several communities. Settled inhabitants called themselves nymylgany (“locals”). Reindeer herders called themselves chavchyv (“rich with deer”). Many separated groups spawned a variety of dialects of the Koryak language.

Hunters, Fishermen, Reindeer Herders

Originally Koryaks engaged in fishing and hunting. Later they mastered reindeer herding.

Settled Koryaks also mastered gathering. Nuts and berries, bird eggs, seaweed and shellfish supplement their daily diet.

Skilled Craftsmen

Koryaks make excellent bone knives, brakes for sledges, picks, combs. They are very good at preparing leather and weaving.

Men carved from stone, bone and ivory different figurines, ornaments, pipes. Women engaged in sewing clothes and adorned it with embroidery.

Koryaks are Musical People

Music has always been a part of the culture of this nation. Interestingly, that various wind instruments, tweeters, whistles, tambourines, bells, and so on were all called with the same word. Koryaks are wonderful singers and dancers.

Modern Koryak performance has the elements of traditional music and dance in modern adaptation:

Today, about 9000 Koryaks try to maintain their traditional arts and crafts.


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

The pic 1 from “Description ethnographique des peuples de la Russie” (1862)

The pic 2 from Collection of Russian Museum of Ethnography

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