Their show of diplomacy would have made Henry Kissinger proud. Georgetown University students -- bearing bits of spirited Americana such as Old Grand Dad and pecan pie -- bit the bullet Sunday and went next door to wish their Soviet neighbors a happy and peaceful New Year -- and to mend an international fence between their households.
You might say a shill swept over their relations with the Soviets last Sept. 14, when Georgetown students threw a back-to-school bash at their Glover Park house, next door to the Soviet Embassy's residential complex at 3902 Fulton Road NW. A multi-million-dollar, ultra-modern adjacent facility, around the corner at 3601 Tunlaw Rd., houses 159 Soviet Embassy employes and their families.
As sometimes happens at a college blast, a few partygoers got out of hand and, in a drunken demonstration of misguided patriotism, began throwing hot dogs and watermelons onto the Soviet grounds while shouting anticommunist slogans.
Understandably, the Soviets called the police.
"The people at the party who were doing that didn't understand that we have to be neighbors with these guys," Christopher Tovar, an international relations major, explained. "We have a strong sense of neighborhood here."
Even so, as time passed, other events further strained relations.
As it happens, the students own four dogs -- two beagles, a whippet and a Labrador retriever; the Soviets own cats. The dogs began tunneling under the fence surrounding the Soviet compound, surfacing on the grounds.
The Soviets seemed to think it was cute the first time, the students say. But when the dogs surfaced in the compound again and again, the Soviets began shouting phrases that sounded like the Russian equivalent of "Get out of here!"
Again, understandably, the Soviets called the police.
Last Sunday, however, accepting an extended olive branch, the Soviets rolled out the red carpet for seven of the students, inviting them to tour their living quarters. The 45-minute tour -- which included an elaborate auditorium and a fully equipped gymnasium featuring a rendering of Misha, the cheery Olympic bear -- ended with warm handshakes and compliments, and the Soviets invited the students to view a film in the auditorium (they were showing "Popeye" Sunday) and to play volleyball in their gym.
Phone numbers were exchanged.
"We didn't bring them the gifts out of guilt," said Mark Stanton, a government major. "We're just trying to show them that at a time of high international tension, not all Americans are anti-Soviet."
"It's difficult to see these people as those who invaded Afghanistan," observed student John D. Nelson. Another student, with more than a hint of extremely good nature, added, "You can't expect that to spoil neighborhood relations."
In general, say the students, the Soviet neighbors have been very tolerant of their parties -- at which they sometimes play host to more than 250 persons -- and Christopher Tovar's electric-guitar playing.
"My room is right next to the playground," Tovar says. "I noticed one day while I was practicing that all the little kids were, you know, dancing. Then they looked around like they were embarrassed, like their parents were watching."
"They seem to be very curious about me because I'm black," said Nathaniel Carter, an English major who also talked with the Soviet children about Alexsander Sergeyevich Pushkin, a 19th century Russian writer whose mother's family traced its ancestry back to an Abyssinian prince. "They probably have a distorted view of American blacks from television."
Soviet representatives say they like the neighborhood and have had very little trouble with their young neighbors.
Embassy first secretary Valeri K. Bobounov's reaction to the students' gesture was brief but explicit:
"This is nice, very nice," he said. "We like to have neighbors come."