Socinians (социніяни; sotsyniiany). A Protestant sect whose name is derived from that of its Italian founders, Laelius and Faustus Socinius (Sozzini). The Socinians were Unitarians; they believed that Christ was a man whose divinity arose from his office and not his nature. They rejected communion and prayers for the dead, but respected the sabbath and condemned war. Elders and deacons were their community leaders, and only their pastors had the right to conduct services and deliver sermons. The emphasis they placed on education led them to establish Socinian schools and publishing houses with high standards.
Faustus Socinius moved to Cracow in 1579 and assumed the leadership of the previously established Minor Reformed Church (Polish Brethren). Many existing Protestant communities throughout the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth adopted Socinianism. The movement also attracted adherents throughout Belarus and Ukraine (particularly in Volhynia and the Kyiv region), including such leading noble families as the Hoisky, Nemyrych, Seniuta, Pronsky, Peresidsky, Chaplych, and Shpanovsky families, many of whom established Socinian schools and communities on their estates. Settlements were also founded in Kyselyn, Hoshcha, Khmilnyk, Liakhivtsi, Cherniakhiv (near Zhytomyr), Berestechko, and elsewhere. Repressions against the Socinians began in 1644 and intensified after the members of the sect showed support for Charles X Gustav of Sweden in the Polish-Swedish War (1655–7). In 1658 the Polish parliament ordered the Socinians either to convert to Catholicism or to face expulsion and the confiscation of their schools and shrines.
The Socinians were active in producing polemical literature; some examples, as well as some anti-Socinian versified works of the late 16th century, have been preserved. Among Ukrainian translations of Socinian texts of that period, the most notable is the Nehalevsky Gospel, published in 1581.
Wilbur, E. The History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and Its Antecedents (Cambridge 1945)
Levytsky, O. ‘Socinianism in Poland and South-West Rus’,’ AUAas, 3, no. 1 (1953)
Kot, S. Socinianism in Poland: The Social and Political Ideas of the Polish Anti-Trinitarians in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Boston 1957)
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine