When she was a little girl, Nino Burdzhanadze often gazed at the world map hanging on her bedroom wall and dreamed, but not about exotic islands or fairy tale weddings in distant lands.
Staring at the 15 Soviet republics grouped together in red under the label U.S.S.R., she once commented to her father: "It would be so nice if Georgia would be a different color."
Burdzhanadze never forgot her father's sad and wistful response: "I don't know if your generation will be so lucky as to see Georgia in a distinct color, the way it used to be, in your lifetime. I know my generation never will."
His hopelessness made a deep impression.
In an interview Wednesday in Washington, Burdzhanadze, the speaker of Parliament in an independent Georgia, smiled softly as she expressed her dual pleasure: "I am so happy now that Georgia has a different color. And my father is still around to witness it."
Georgia has had many queens during its history. Foremost among them was Tamara, bestowed with the title of King by her subjects for her astute leadership in the 12th and 13th centuries. That legacy of female leadership, and a documentary film about a female ambassador, fueled Burdzhanadze's desire to have a career in public service.
Burdzhanadze, born in the city of Kutaisi, studied law at Tbilisi State University and completed a doctorate in international law at Moscow State University in 1990. She became a professor of international relations and international law at Tbilisi and wrote articles about related issues.
She won a seat in Parliament in 1995, and six years later, she was elected speaker -- the first woman to hold that position in any of the former Soviet republics. She is also the president of the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is meeting in Washington this month.
Burdzhanadze will go down in her country's history, however, as one of the main architects of the Rose Revolution in late 2003, part of a triumvirate of opposition politicians who ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze.
The three politicians -- Burdzhanadze, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is now president, and Zurab Zhvaniya, who became prime minister but died this year -- had worked for two years to rid the country of corruption and end Russian influence. Parliamentary elections in November 2003, widely condemned as fraudulent, triggered a peaceful but defiant uprising.
Burdzhanadze vowed that she would not accept the results of the elections. Opposition members met with Shevardnadze, pointing out the size of their support and warning him that he would have a revolution on his hands if he insisted on the official result of the vote. "We wanted to change things in the right direction, but the meetings we had with him were very strained," she recalled.
She said Shevardnadze underestimated the extent of their support and the swelling disappointment among an impoverished population.
Armed with roses, thousands of people thronged Tbilisi's Freedom Square after the election, camping out under their umbrellas in freezing rain. Burdzhanadze packed a small bag and lived in her office for three weeks. She would sleep in an armchair for an hour or two, then go out and encourage crowds in the street.
"I felt a huge responsibility. I wanted them to know they were not alone and that I would not leave them," she recalled. "I saw mothers with their children and thought of my two sons."
Her 18-year old son, Anzor, who was studying in London, insisted that he should be home supporting the effort. "I have to be in Tbilisi," he told his mother. She gave in: "All right, come."
"I am already at the airport," he announced. She hated to admit it then, she said, but "I felt very proud of my son."
The drama picked up when demonstrators crossed the street behind Saakashvili, who overran the Parliament building with his supporters. Shevardnadze fled with his guards and later announced his resignation. Burdzhanadze assumed the presidency until new elections were held Jan. 4, 2004. Saakashvili, the main opposition candidate, won the election.
"Most of the members of the revolution and representatives in the new government are my former students," she said proudly as she prepared for meetings with Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice and other senior U.S. officials and legislators.
The speaker conceded that much remained to be done "to make the democratization process irreversible."
The U.S. Congress has selected Georgia as one of five countries in need of assistance in developing parliamentary institutions and will endorse training and exchange programs. Burdzhanadze's staff is young and inexperienced, she said, but very enthusiastic to learn.
The challenges of rebuilding Georgia's institutions and encouraging foreign investment remain colossal, she said.
"We inherited a bouquet of problems, unpaid pensions as low as $7 a month and some people who believe the collapse of the Soviet empire was a tragedy," she added.
was a principal architect of Georgia's Rose Revolution.