The Soviet Embassy last night opened its doors to more than 1,000 guests for the 65th anniversary celebration of the Great October Socialist Revolution, a party where the list of regrets was a pointed reminder of the tenuous nature of international politics.
The one major bash thrown each year by the embassy comes at a time when relations are particularly chilled between the United States and the Soviet Union.
There wasn't a Cabinet member or White House official in sight, though many were invited. And although the French, Swedish, Mexican and Pakistani ambassadors attended, the highest-ranking U.S. official appeared to be Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.).
Last week Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev lambasted the United States, saying that "Washington's aggressive policy . . . is threatening to push the world into the flames of nuclear war." And yesterday, in a Kremlin speech marking the October anniversary, Politburo member Viktor Grishin accused U.S. leaders of "using the myth about the Soviet menace as a cover-up."
"Unfortunately, there have been negative comments from both sides," said Russian ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin last night. "I don't think his comments were unusual. Why should that matter?"
Soviet press officer Vladimir Mikoyan said the embassy had invited the entire Cabinet, most of the Senate and top White House officials--including the Big Three, Edwin Meese, James Baker and Michael Deaver.
In the past, the reception has been one of Washington's social high points, attracting secretaries of state, high-level officials and even former presidents. Two years ago, Richard M. Nixon stunned everyone by showing up at the party shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected. And last year, then-undersecretary of state Walter J. Stoessel attended, as well as several prominent senators.
"There aren't any high-level people here, are there?" said Pressler. "Well, we didn't get any signal in the Senate to stay away . . . The president is about to reverse himself on the Soviet pipeline and I think everyone in the administration is on pins and needles over that."
Guests streamed in past six serious-looking men checking invitations, past 15 closed-circuit televisions monitoring the party and past a table laden with Soviet literature, including pamphlets titled "Glimpses of Lenin" and "Brezhnev -- Our Course: Peace and Socialism." The booklets disappeared quickly, and were just as quickly replaced with new supplies.
The crowd packed into the gold-leafed state rooms and mainly ate. Two room-length tables were overflowing with caviar, meat-filled pastries, salads, sausages and fancy hors d'oeuvres. And, of course, Russian vodka.
"I hear," whispered one woman as she rushed to the buffet table, "that the caviar goes quickly and they don't replace it."
It did, and they didn't.