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Koryaks

KORYAKS, a Mongoloid people of north-eastern Siberia, inhabiting the coast-lands 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 in manner of life. Thus they are divided into the settled fishing tribes and the nomad reindeer breeders and hunters. The former are described as being more morally and physically degraded even than the Chukchis, and 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 proved themselves recklessly brave. When outnumbered they would kill their women and children, set fire to their homes, and die fighting. Families usually gather in groups of sixes or sevens, 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- inlaw. 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 thus to save them from protracted sufferings 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 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); "Cber die Koriaken u. ihnen nahe verwandten Tchouktchen," in Bui. Acad. Sc. St. Petersburg, xii. 99.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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