IF GLASNOST means the Russians are our friends again, let's have peace, fine. But if it means we're going to have to put up with the sort of dull disinformatsia that fills the Soviet exhibition opening Monday at the Departmental Auditorium, then forget it, let's go back to the cold war.

You don't have to be a U.S. chauvinist or obsessed with godless communism to be disheartened and offended by the clumsy snow job attempted in "The USSR: the Individual, Family, Society."

Now midway through a tour of six U.S. cities, the exhibit is designed to help ease the estrangement between America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by emphasizing how much we have in common. Originally a low-key affair, it has been overtaken by the events of glasnost, becoming a focal point of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's upcoming visit.

Which is unfortunate, because if this is the best foot the Russians can put forward, it's going to be a long, slow thaw. With several delightful exceptions the exhibit is characterized by dreary design, unengaging objects, predictable photos, and bodacious lies like:

The Soviet Union put an end to unemployment more than half a century ago.

We provide every family with a house or an individual apartment.

Children are the only privileged class here.

The bright spots in the exhibit are bright indeed. There are incomparable lacquered boxes, furs so irresistible that two were stolen in Atlanta (for which Jimmy Carter apologized), folk and children's paintings, a go-cart crafted by high school students.

There are wonderful microscopic sculptures, including such mind-benders as a human hair, hollowed out and polished to transparency, containing a perfect sculptured rose; and a gold chessboard with pieces in place, mounted on the head of a pin.

The exhibitors say there will also be fashion shows and performances of folk music and dance, times to be announced.

Visitors will be invited to take a quiz, with top scorers entered in a drawing for an all- expenses paid tour of the Soviet Union. There apparently is no second prize.

THE USSR: THE INDIVIDUAL, FAMILY, SOCIETY -- Through December 22 at the Departmental Auditorium, 13th & Constitution. Open 10 to 6 daily.