Officially, East Germany is Moscow's obedient servant, a model of the good German, prone to follow so well that he becomes more Russian than the Russians.

Unofficially, however, there has been a wave of restiveness here that is perhaps the most puzzling and unpredictable of any in the Eastern bloc.

The first public signs came last fall when Marxist balladeer and social critic Wolf Biermann was barred from returning to this country after a concert in the West. Some think Biermann had been allowed to go West precisely to set up a pretext for a crackdown on the idea that criticism of the East German brand of socialism was permissible.

More than 100 intellectuals protested the exile. Many were expelled from the party, exiled or jailed.

It was the first real sign of dissent here since 1953, but East Germany, like Czechoslovakia, has become relatively prosperous and its population generally is more materialistic these days.

There is worker curiosity about Biermann and his colleagues, but little overt sign of sympathy.

The far bigger cause for potential unrest is the demand for free movement, especially to the West.

Beginning last spring, thousands of East Germans, many carring copies of the Helsinki accord, began applying for permission to emigrate. The number has climbed to more than 100,000.

The impression that they might get out grew when a summit of all European Communist parties was held here in June and the speeches of liberal Western Communists were heard on West German television, which reaches 80 per cent of East German homes.

With very few exceptions, however, only pensioners are allowed to leave this sealed-off country and East Germany has made it difficult for new applicants to visit West German liaison offices in East Berlin.

While the intellectuals seem to have been quieted recently, the mood of discontent has not disappeared.