Vello Salo

Non-fiction Vello Salo

About Vello Salo


Vello Salo (until 1945 Endel Vaher, 5. XI 1925 – 21. IV 2019) was an essayist, translator, cleric and a scholar and promoter of Estonian literature in exile.

He was born into a family of schoolteacher in Võisiku parish in Viljandi county. As a high-school student in 1943 he joined infantry regiment number 200 in the Finnish army (the so-called “Finnish boys”). In the course of the war he was imprisoned and taken to Germany. He took part in the battles of Silesia and end up in the Czech Hell, from where he managed to escape, and ended up in Italy, where he took a new name, Vello Salo, to spare his relatives back in his homeland from Soviet repression.
Vello Salo studied and worked in several countries, actively working to preserve Estonian identity, as a publisher, translator and journalist. He was a Catholic. In 1976 he obtained a doctorate in theology from the Pontificium Institutum Biblicum in Rome. Salo returned to Estonia in 1993. In 1993 and 1994 he gave lectures as a visiting professor in the faculty of theology at the University of Tartu. From 2001 he was a priest at the Pirita monastery and was active in publishing various kinds of books, mostly of a spiritual nature, and in editing a new translation of the Bible into Estonian. In the 2011/2012 academic year Salo was a professor of liberal arts at the University of Tartu. In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Helsinki. Salo was a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union from 1998.

Salo has translated into Italian and published the work of Estonian poets. In 1962 he set up the Estonian exile publishing house Maarjamaa, which is still functioning today. Salo translated religious poetry into Estonian, based on the ancient original texts of the Bible. In the sphere of non-fiction, Salo published research material about Estonian culture, and surveys of the repressionsisals by the occupying powers on Estonian territory. Salo’s activities have been recognised with many awards. A documentary film has been made about him: Vello Salo. Igapäevelu müstika ('Vello Salo: The Mystery of Everyday Life', 2018, directed by Jaan Tootsen).

L. P. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Research work
Riik ja kirikud 1940–1974. Rooma: Maarjamaa, 1974. 82 lk.
Olaf Sild, Vello Salo, Lühike Eesti kirikulugu. Tartu: 1995. 232 lk.
E. V. Kaadriohvitseride saatus 1938–1996 [nimestik]. Tartu: Okupatsioonide Repressiivpoliitika Uurimise Riiklik Komisjon (Johannes Esto Ühing), 1996. 36 lk.
Riik ja kirikud 1940–1991. Brampton [Kanada]: Maarjamaa, 2000. 86 lk.
Maarja maa lugu. Tallinn: V. Salo, 2015. 34 lk.