The Koryak Autonomous Okrug is located in the northern part of the peninsula and includes part of the surrounding mainland. It is about the size of Arizona with a population of about 35,000 people. Only one-fifth of those are Koryaks. Chukchi, Itelmens, and Evens constitute the other native groups in the Regions, but Russians and Ukrainians make up over 75% of the total population. A steady emigration of non-natives back to their homes in the European part of the former Soviet Union has changed these number since the 1989 census, but reliable current statistics are not available.
The Region is divided into four districts: Tigilsky, Karaginsky, Oliutorsky, and Penzhinsky. The Regional capital, Palana, is the largest town with about 4000 people. Karaginsky District, capital Ossora, is the most populous and developed area. The northern districts of Penzhinsky and Oliutorsky have the most indigenous people who still use their traditional language in everyday life.
The Koryaks call themselves by two different names: the traditionally nomadic reindeer-herding tribes use the name chavchu 'reindeer rearers', 'rich in reindeer', the resident tribes nymylan 'resident, settler' (nym = a dwelling place, settlement). Koryak originates from a neighbouring people who derived the name from the Koryak stem kor 'reindeer (korak 'at the reindeer', 'with the reindeer'). The Russians adopted this variant and popularized it.
Most probably the Koryaks were first mentioned in writing in 1755 by Russian explorer S. Krasheninnikov in his book of travels. The national policy of the 1930s encouraged the use of self-designations as the official variant. In the case of the Koryaks the name nymylan predominated but after the war the former name was reinstated.