Her measured words and calls for calm are in contrast with the strident pose of Georgia's main opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili, the leading force behind some of the largest Georgian protests in a decade.

“We should be calm and organised,” she told supporters during and after they stormed parliament, forcing Shevardnadze to flee in confusion as he was addressing the new assembly's inaugural session after a disputed election. 
   
The opposition politician thanked the police and army for “not raising their hands against the peaceful people of their own country”.

Headmistress of the revolution

Burdzhanadze, 39, seems an unlikely leader of what Saakashvili has christened a “velvet revolution”, taking his lead from the bloodless 1989 coup which ended communism in former Czechoslovakia.

“We should protect the physical security of the president like any other citizen of this country”

Nino Burdzhanadze

Clad in tailored suits, many remark she reminds them of a school headmistress. Her clipped but elegant Georgian is direct and stern.
   
She is hugely popular among women and has twice been elected to Georgia's parliament since ending protracted studies and consulting work at the Environment Ministry and parliament's Committee on Foreign Relations. 
   
Former supporter

Like Saakashvili, Burdzhanadze was once a solid supporter of Georgia's now troubled president, who swept into power in 1992 after a period of huge upheaval following the demise of communism in the former Soviet republic.

She has been blunt in branding Shevardnadze's administration corrupt. But she has called on opposition activists not to turn their wrath over the modern Georgia's dire straits into attacks on the 75-year-old leader.

“We should protect the physical security of the president like any other citizen of this country,” she said after the opposition seized the country's parliament on Saturday.