Notes: Yugra (a.k.a. Yuhra, Yura), the Yugrans or Ob-Ugrians and their Golden Lady

From Wikipedia’s entry on Yugra extracted below:

Yugra or Iuhra (Old Russian Югра, c.f. Byzantine Greek Οὔγγροι) was the name of the lands between the Pechora River and Northern Urals in the Russian annals of the 12th–17th centuries, as well as the name of the Khanty and partly Mansi tribes inhabiting these territories, later known as Voguls

The Khanty–Mansi Autonomous Okrug of Russia is also called Yugra. The name Yugra also gave rise to the modern adjective Ugric(Did the Japanese word for sun come from the same cognate word? Yuhi means setting sun in Japanese? So is it possible that the “people of the sun” (referred to by the Ainu people as arriving after them in Japan) is a distant memory of the people who came from Yugra once upon a time?  [Ugra cognate for arka too?  “Arka” means “the Sun” in Orissa, see the Sun Temple on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.]

See map at

Yugra (Iuhra), “the place of origin of Hungarians” (inde ungaroru origo) on Sigismund von Herberstein‘s 1549 map of Moscovia. Herberstein placed the label Iuhra east of the Ob River, while Aureanus (Golden Lady?), a.k.a. Slata baba (“Golden Laby”/”Golden Idol”) can be seen west of the Ob.

The 12th century missionary and traveller Abu Hamid al-Gharnati gives one of the earliest accounts of the region, which he calls Yura in Arabic:

“But beyond Wisu by the Sea of Darkness there lies a land known by the name of Yura. In summers the days are very long there, so that the Sun does not set for forty days, as the merchants say; but in winters the nights are equally long. The merchants report that Darkness is not far (from them), and that the people of Yura go there and enter it with torches, and find a huge tree there which is like a big village. But on top of the tree there sits a large creature, they say it is a bird. And they bring merchandise along, and each merchant sets down his goods apart from those of the others; and he makes a mark on them and leaves, but when he comes back, he finds commodities there, necessary for his own country…” (Al Garnati:32)

The Golden Lady of the Obians was apparently an idol of the Yugrans. The first reports of the Golden Lady are found in the 14th-century Novgorod Chronicles, with reference to Saint Stephan of Perm. Next, the golden idol is mentioned in the 16th century by the subjects of the Grand Duke of Moscow, commissioned to describe the trade and military routes of the expanding Russia. The first non-Russian we know of to comment on the golden lady is Mathias from Miechov, Professor of Krakow University. The golden idol appeared on Sigismund von Herberstein‘s map of Moscovia published on 1549, and on a number of later maps, e.g. Gerhard Mercator‘s “Map of the Arctic (1595)”, where it is labeled Zolotaia Baba (from Russian Золотая баба– “Golden Lady” or “Golden Idol“).

In connection with Yermak‘s campaign, the Siberian Chronicle also tells us about the golden woman: a hetman of Yermak’s, by the name of Ivan Bryazga, invaded the Belogorye region in 1582 and fought the Ob-Ugrians there, who were defending their holiest object – the golden woman. (See Karjalainen 1918:243-245, Shestalov 1987:347.) And Grigori Novitski‘s statement that in earlier days there used to be in one shrine in Belogorye together with the copper goose “the greatest real idol”, and that the superstitious people “preserved that idol and took it to Konda now that idol-worshipping is being rooted up”, has also been regarded as relating to the golden woman (Novitski:61). Actually, no European has ever seen that idol and most probably it never existed in the described form (as a full-length woman made of gold).

Of the “Copper Goose” Novitski wrote the following:

“The goose idol very much worshipped by them is cast of copper in the shape of a goose, its atrocious abode is in the Belogorye village on the great river of Ob. According to their superstition they worship the god of waterfowls – swans, geese and other birds swimming on water… His throne in the temple is made of different kinds of broadcloth, canvas and hide, built like a nest; in it sits the monster who is always highly revered, most of all at the times of catching waterfowls in nests… This idol is so notorious that people come from distant villages to perform atrocious sacrifice to it – offering cattle, mainly horses; and they are certain that it (the idol) is the bearer of many goods, mainly ensuring the richness of waterfowls…”

Comparisons of different Yugran traditions indicate that the goose was one of the shapes or appearances of the most popular god of the “World Surveyor Man”, and that Belogorye is still sometimes referred to as his home. Novitsky also describes a site for worshipping this “World Surveyor” or “Ob Master”:

“The home of the Ob Master was presumably near the stronghold Samarovo in the mouth of the river Irtysh. According to their heathen belief he was the god of the fish, depicted in a most impudent manner: a board of wood, nose like a tin tube, eyes of glass, little horns on top of the head, covered with rags, attired in a (gilt breasted) purple robe. Arms – bows, arrows, spears, armour, etc – were laid beside him. According to their heathen belief they say about the collected arms that he often has to fight in the water and conquer other vassals. The frenzy ones thought that the atrocious monster is especially horrifying in the darkness and in the large waters, that he comes through all the depths where he watches over all fish and aquatic animals and gives everyone as much as he pleases.” (Novitsky: 59).

There are three or four known proto-states of the Yugran inhabitants, both Khanty and Mansi. The Principality of Pelym (largely Khanty) was located in the basin of the Konda river and stretched from the mouth of the Sosva River near Tavda up to Tabory. The stronghold of the Pelym princes was also a significant religious centre; a sacred Siberian larch grew in its surroundings and even in the 18th century people used to hang the skins of sacrificed horses on its branches. Near the sacred tree was a worship storehouse with five idols of human figure, and smaller storehouses with high pillars and human-faced peaks around it for storing sacrificial instruments. The bones of sacrificial animals were stored in a separate building (Novitski: 81). The Principality of Konda (mainly Mansi) formed a large semi autonomous part of the Pelym principality, according to the tax registers from 1628/29 it was inhabited by 257 tax-paying Mansi. The treasures of Prince Agai of Konda who was imprisoned by the Russians in 1594 gives us a good picture of the wealth of the Yugran nobles of this period. Namely, the Russians confiscated two silver crowns, a silver spoon, a silver beaker, a silver spiral bracelet, “precious drapery” and numerous pelts and precious furs (Bahrushin 1955,2: 146). The third part of the Pelym principality was the region of Tabary, in which inhabited 102 adults in 1628/29. Preceding the coming of the Russians the Mansi of this region were farmers and according to the tradition Yermak collected tribute in the form of grain (Bahrushin 1955,2: 147).

It is believed that the Yugran people or Ob-Ugrians had made trade with many countries far and wide since the earliest times. This trade was described in journals attributed to Abu Hamid al-Gharnati the Arab traveller during the 12th century:

“And from Bolghar merchants travel to the land of heathens, called Wisu; marvellous beaver skins come from there, and they take there wedge-shaped unpolished swords made in Azerbaijan in their turn… But the inhabitants of Visu take these swords to the land that lies near the Darkness (Yugra) by the Black Sea (now known as the White Sea), and they trade the swords for sable skins. And these people take the swords and cast them into the Black Sea; but Allah the Almighty sends them a fish which size is like a mountain (a whale); and they sail out to the fish in their ships and carve its flesh for months on end.” (ibid:58-59)


The million-dollar question(s):

A. Is this Yugran Golden Lady related to the Ugra-Tara, the shining goddess of Northern India, Nepal, Tibet, who may also be related to the Umay or Umai mother goddess of the Altai-Mongols and Turks? And also having common origins as the Luminous Mother goddess of Yunnan and Japan, i.e. Ama-terasu? which means Shining Celestial Mother)

B. The casting of swords into the sea by the Yugrans – recalls the account of Nitta Yoshisada prayed to a sea-god or Ryūjin, or Sun Goddess Amaterasu appearing in the form of Ryujin. The Taiheiki itself (稲村崎成干潟事) says:

Dismounting from his horse, Yoshisada removed his helmet and prostrating himself across the distant seas prayed to Ryūjin. “It is said that the lord of Japan from the beginning, Amaterasu Ōmikami, enshrined at Ise Jingū, hid herself within a Vairocana and appeared as Ryūjin of the vast blue seas. My lord (Emperor Go-Daigo) is her descendant, and drifts upon waves of the western sea due to rebels. I Yoshisada, in an attempt to serve as a worthy subject, will pick up my axes and face the enemy line. That desire is to aid the nation and bring welfare to the masses. Ryūjin of the Eight Protectorate Gods of the (seven) Inner Seas and the Outer Sea, witness this subject’s loyalty and withdraw the waters afar, open a path to the lines of the three armies.

He therefore speaks to Ryūjin who, he has heard, is manifestation of Amaterasu.

C. Were the ‘inhabitants of Visu‘, traders from India, Visu is a popular Indian name today still, it means ‘Lord Shiva’, alternatively, Visu is a name which in Swahili Visu means ‘knives’, which in the context above of trading swords for sable, is persuasive cognate. Source:  Visu, name meanings

According to Wikipedia entry on The Swahili people:

The “Swahili depended greatly on trade from the Indian Ocean. The Swahili have played a vital role as middle man between east, central and South Africa, and the outside world. Trade contacts have been noted as early as 100 AD. by early Roman writers who visited the East African coast in the 1st century. Trade routes extended from Somalia to Tanzania into modern day Zaire, along which goods were brought to the coasts and were sold to Arab, Indian, and Portuguese traders. Historical and archaeological records attest to Swahilis being prolific maritime merchants and sailors[12][13] who sailed the East African coastline to lands as far away as Arabia[14] Persia[14]Madagascar[12] India[13][15] and even China.” 

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