The 1988 Rafto Prize for Human Rights was awarded to Trivimi Velliste (1947) of Estonia, one of the leading forces behind the liberation of the Baltic States.
Trivimi Velliste faced great personal risk by encouraging the drive for national and political freedom. Initially he struggled against the Russians for Estonia’s identity and later he fought for his country’s independence. Trivimi believed that knowledge of history was necessary in the fight for elementary human rights and in order to achieve self-government and self-confidence.
Following a career in publishing and journalism, and being a central player in opposition to Soviet rule, Velliste founded the Estonian Heritage Society in 1987. The Estonian Heritage Society was instrumental in politically mobilizing national sentiments, encouraging the public celebration of national anniversaries, and the strengthening of religious movements. Its work was important in the pro-independence movement, leading to the disintegration of the Estonian communist party in 1990.
Trivimi Velliste was later a member of the Congress of Estonia and Committee of Estonia from 1990-1992 and a member of the Constitutional Embassy from 1991-1992. He was then appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992 until 1994, and later served as a United Nations ambassador from 1994 until 1998. Since then Trivimi Velliste has continued his career as a member of parliament.