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Kitty Weaver; raised hackles over her books on Soviet children

WASHINGTON — Kitty Weaver, who died Jan. 9 at 102, was a poultry farmer, student of primatology, Northern Virginia socialite, and scholar of Soviet-era education practices.

A 1963 visit to the Soviet Union with her husband, a corporate lawyer, marked a turning point in her life. While playing tennis with her husband at a sporting facility in what was then Leningrad, she was shocked when asked by an instructor to leave the court and practice with other novices: Russian children.

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It would not be her last encounter with communist youth. Around that same time, she traveled to East Berlin, where she found that young people were eager to strike up a conversation.

‘‘Then I began to wonder what makes someone a Communist,’’ she told the New York Times in 1971, ‘‘and I decided to start at the beginning with the children.’’

She made 48 subsequent trips to the Soviet Union, once in the company of her friend Forrest Mars Sr., the candy magnate who created the M&M. She told the Washington Post she was initially reluctant to bring him because ‘‘he, being a capitalist, would ruin my trip.’’ But Mars opened doors by proffering M&Ms to the right bureaucrats. It also helped that the Russians thought his name was Marx, she said.

Ms. Weaver wrote three books, describing Russian education from preschool to college: ‘‘Lenin’s Grandchildren: Preschool Education in the Soviet Union’’ (1971), ‘‘Russia’s Future: The Communist Education of Soviet Youth’’ (1981), and ‘‘Bushels of Rubles: Soviet Youth in Transition’’ (1992).

In his foreword to ‘‘Lenin’s Grandchildren,’’ Times education editor Fred Hechinger wrote that Ms. Weaver ‘‘properly stresses what Russian preschool education does rather than what its theorists claim it does.’’

The two later books drew more skeptical reviews.

In a 2009 Washington Post interview, she said her trips abroad piqued the interest of the CIA, and the agency sent agents to her Loudoun farmhouse to debrief her. Her residence, she said, became a social meeting ground for expatriate Russians and CIA officials.

Sometimes, she added, friends ribbed her about her loyalties. ‘‘I’m not a Communist but a friend of the Soviet Union,’’ she said. ‘‘They always wanted to go to my parties.’’

Born in Frankfort, Ky., Katherine Gray Dunlap grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla., where her father was a newspaper columnist.

She had a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in English from George Washington University. In 1947, she received a second bachelor’s degree, in agriculture, from the University of Maryland.

She also did graduate work in Russian studies at Georgetown University.

She died at her Glengyle farm home of complications from pneumonia.

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