- Ethnic group. Numbering fewer than 9,000, the Koryaks are an indigenous Asiatic people who live in the Kamchatka Peninsula. They identify themselves as either Nymylan (Koryak: “village dwellers”) or Chavchu (“reindeer herders”). The Koryak language is a member of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family and is related to Chukchi. Koryaks practice animism and shamanism, often alongside Russian Orthodoxy. In the Gorbachev era, the Koryaks established a special nationality commission to deal with the federal government on indigenous issues such as the fur trade. They were also represented in the Association of the Peoples of the North, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) formed to protect the traditional rights and lands of Russia’s northern national minorities. Since 1991, the privatization and marketization of Russia has weakened the Koryaks’ position against environmentally unsound practices, although they have found some success through cooperation with international NGOs committed to environmental protection. Until 2007, Koryaks possessed their own autonomous okrug called Koryakiya; however, after the results of a 2005 referendum, the region was merged with Kamchatka Oblast to form Kamchatka Krai.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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