"Few people have heard the legend of the golden goddess Jumala, an idol of nested gold figures created and worshiped by the Ugrians in the foothills of the Ural Mountains. Perhaps it is no more than a legend, yet rumors of Jumala appeared in Europe as early as the tenth century and Scandinavian sagas describe unsuccessful attempts by the Vikings to steal the statue.
Sebastian Muenstere, Gerard Mercator, and other sixteenth century geographers had a "golden woman" marked on their maps. When Baron Sigismund Herberstein arrived in Russia in 1549, he was told that a golden statue existed that had a hollow, "singing" interior and that inside was another figure which in turn contained a third figure. No one was allowed to see the goddess, who stood in a sacred wood; but every Ugrian who passed by had to leave a gold coin, or something else of value as an offering. Every day the goddess's hereditary guards collected the donations, and when enough gold was amassed, it was fashioned into a new shell, and the old statue, together with all it contained, was placed inside. When the English traveler Giles Fletcher visited Moscow in 1584, he sent an expedition to the Urals, but according to his Of the Russe Common Wealth, no "golden woman" was found.
After Herberstein, only four men came into direct contact with the Jumala mystery, of whom the first was Bogdan Bryazga, a Cossack chieftain who took part in Ermak's conquest of Siberia. On his way down the Irtysh in 1582, Bryazga and his Cossacks invaded the territory of the shrine. Terrified, the local tribes gathered in a fortified settlement, bringing Jumala with them. But by the time the Cossacks stormed the village, the goddess had disappeared.
In the 18th century, Colonel Grigorii Novitskii of Kiev, who had participated in a conspiracy in the Ukraine, was exiled to Tobolsk and sent to the Konda River, where the Khanty and Mansi people (descendants of the Ugrians) had concealed Jumala. Determined to find the goddess, Novitskii searched the shaman-guarded local shrines and forests and bogs until he was finally killed. While exploring the Konda in 1904, another Russian traveler, Konstantin Nosilov, met an old man who recalled the legend about Jumala being carried across the Urals, but he either did not know, or refused to disclose, where the goddess was hidden.
In the 1930s, in the small taiga village of Nyurkoi, an aged shaman told Anton Kadulin, an old hunter still living in the small settlement of Tiumen in 1967, that Jumala had been taken somewhere on a boggy island and hidden with her treasures so that she might never be found again.
Reports by Orthodox priests in Siberia concerning the local people's worship of their old gods reveal that the search for Jumala continued until 1917, that no one every disclosed her hiding place, and that her whereabouts remain unknown to the present day".