Koriak National Okrug

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Koriak National Okrug


part of Kamchatka Oblast, RSFSR. Formed Dec. 10, 1930, the okrug occupies the northern half of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the adjacent continental area, and Karaginskii Island. It is bounded by the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. Area, 301,500 sq km. Population, 32,000 (1972). It is divided into four administrative raions. The center is the settlement of Palana.

Natural features. Mountain terrain predominates in the okrug; parts of the Sredinnyi Range and the Koriak and Kolyma mountains are found here. The Sredinnyi Range, occupying the southern part of the okrug, has average elevations of 600-900 m and individual massifs exceeding 2,000 m. The Koriak Mountains in the eastern part of the okrug consist of a number of ridges, ranges, and chains; the terrain is smoothed out, with only isolated alpine ridges rising above 1,700 m. The highest peak in the Koriak Mountains is Mount Ledianaia (2,562 m). Part of the Kolyma Mountains, including sharply dissected chains with elevations of up to 1,500 m, enters the okrug from the west. The lowlands in the okrug—the Penzhina Depression and Parapol’skii Dale—are divided by the Penzhina Range; they are swampy and have many small lakes. The seacoasts are low-lying and flat, with the exception of the northeastern coast along the Bering Sea. The largest bays are the Oliutorskii, Korf, Karaginskii, and Penzhina. The Penzhina is the okrug’s largest river; other important rivers are the Tigil’, Vyvenka, Pakhacha, and Apuka.

The climate is subarctic and Severo. Winters are long and cold; the average January temperature is between — 24° and — 26°C. Summers are short and cool, with an average July temperature of 10°-14°C. The region receives from 300 mm to 700 mm of precipitation per year, and the growing season lasts 65-110 days. Permafrost occurs everywhere. Soils are of the tundra and peatbog type. Climatic and soil conditions permit the cultivation of the earliest varieties of potatoes, vegetables, and fodder.

The flat and mountainous tundras, rich in reindeer moss and Cetraria lichens, serve as reindeer pastures. Large areas are covered by Siberian dwarf pine and alders, Erman’s birch grows widely on the western coast of Kamchatka, and larch is found along the upper reaches of the Penzhina River. Wildlife is represented by forest-tundra, tundra, alpine, and seacoast animals, although the range of species is not great. The main commercial animals are sable, fox, polar fox, and ermine. Hares and wild reindeer are also encountered. The okrug accounts for about one-fourth of the oblast’s fur production. There are many birds, particularly waterfowl. The coastal waters are rich in fish, especially salmon, herring, and navaga (Eleginus gracilis ), and sea animals.

Population. Most of the okrug’s inhabitants are Russians. The Koriaks constitute 68 percent of the indigenous nationalities, the Chukchi 13 percent, the Itel’meny 11 percent, and the Eveny 7 percent. The average density is 0.1 persons per sq km, with the population concentrated along the coasts and in the river valleys. The urban population is 11,000, or 36 percent of the total. Population centers include five urban-type settlements: Palana, Korf, Ossora, II’pyrskii, and Pakhachi.


History. The question of the Koriaks’ origin is far from being resolved. The first Koriak settlements were discovered in the 17th century in the northwestern part of Kamchatka and along the Okhotsk and Bering coasts, and detailed information about them was first obtained in the mid-17th century during S. I. Dezhnev’s campaign. The movement of Russians from the Anadyr’ fort, founded 1648, to Kamchatka began in the 1690’s, in the course of V. V. Atlasov’s campaigns. Abuses in collecting the iasak (tax in furs) for the tsarist treasury aroused armed resistance by the Koriaks. In the 18th and 19th centuries, in addition to bartering among themselves (particularly in the south), the Koriaks began trading with the Russians, who established the settlements of Penzhino and Gizhiga. Such Russian goods as metal utensils, food products, and manufactured articles entered the Koriak way of life. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Koriaks began trading with Americans, who maintained their own storehouses on land occupied by the local inhabitants. The traders victimized the Koriaks through liquor and trickery; huge profits were made by merchants and middlemen. By 1897 there were 7,335 Koriaks (3,733 men and 3,602 women), living at the clan stage of development; more than half the families were nomads. Their main occupations were reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing.

Soviet power was established on Koriak territory in the winter of 1922-23; White Guards had controlled Kamchatka from 1918 to 1922. The October Revolution opened the noncapitalist path of development to the Koriaks and ensured the socialist reorganization of their economy, culture, and mode of life. The Russian and other peoples of the USSR greatly aided the Koriaks in developing their economy and in training national cadres. Cooperatives, various cultural institutions, and trading stations were established. In the 1930’s the Koriaks took the path of collectivization. First, associations for pasturing reindeer were organized, and later agricultural artels and reindeer-breeding sovkhozes were formed. The Koriaks overcame their economic and cultural backwardness and adopted a settled way of life. The hunting and fishing industries were modernized, and other industries were developed. The gross industrial output in 1971 was nine times that of 1940.

In January 1971 the Koriak National Okrug was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor and, on Dec. 29, 1972, the Order of the Friendship of Peoples.

Economy. The okrug’s leading industry is fishing. There are six fish combines and seven fishing kolkhozes in the coastal areas (the settlements of Ossora, IFpyrskii, Korf, Pakhachi). The catch reaches 1.5 million centners per year. Active-fishing methods are generally used. The improved equipment used in fish combines and fish-processing bases of the kolkhozes has made it possible to expand the range of products considerably. More than 3 million standard containers of canned goods are produced annually.

The brown coal deposits at Korf yield about 30,000 tons per year, and the annual electric energy output exceeds 40 million kilowatt-hours. Agriculture is developing successfully, particularly its most important branch, reindeer breeding, in which eight sovkhozes and several kolkhozes are engaged. There were 146,000 reindeer in 1971, and reindeer-breeding sovkhozes delivered 80,000 centners of meat to the state in 1970. Fur-bearing and marine animals are hunted. Four state fishing farms have been organized to develop the biological resources of the sea. Dairy farming, vegetable growing, and poultry farming have been introduced.

Transportation is mostly by sea and air. Cutters travel on the Penzhina River and in the estuaries of some rivers. Sleds pulled by reindeer or dogs continue to be an important means of transportation.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. In the Karaginskii and Oliutorskii raions the main industry is fishing. In TigiF Raion the chief occupations are fishing and reindeer raising and in Penzhina Raion, reindeer herding and fur trapping.


Education and cultural affairs. In the 1913-14 school year, there were eight schools (203 pupils, primarily Russians) on the territory of the present-day Koriak National Okrug. By 1971-72 there were 6,800 students in 41 general schools of all types and 222 students in a technical trade school. In 1972, 3,600 children were enrolled in 49 preschool institutions. As of Jan. 1, 1972, the okrug had 46 public libraries, housing 297,000 copies of books and magazines, 56 clubs, 55 film projectors, a house of Pioneers, and six music schools.

The okrug newspaper Koriakskii kommunist has been published since 1937. The okrug radio broadcasts over one station in both Russian and Koriak; broadcasts from Moscow and Petropavlovsk-na-Kamchatke are also transmitted.


Sergeev, M. A. Koriakskii natsional’nyi okrug. Leningrad, 1934.
Gurvich, I. S., and K. G. Kuzakov. Koriakskii natsional’nyi okrug. Moscow, 1960.
Problemy razvitiia proizvoditePnykh sil Kamchatskoi oblasti. Moscow, 1960.
Sever Dal’nego Vostoka. Moscow, 1970.
Rossiiskaia Federatsiia: Dal’nii Vostok. Moscow, 1971. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.