Soviet Embassy officials and a half-dozen or so rugged looking workmen descended on the downtown offices of Aeroflot at 16th and L streets NW yesterday morning to do what years of bomb attacks and noisy demonstrations could not: take the place apart.
Equipped with stepladders, screwdrivers and saws, Soviet work crews swept in about 8:30 a.m. and by early afternoon had finished uprooting the little bit of Moscow that sprouted nine years ago on the ground floor of the National Soft Drink Association building.
The Soviet airline was forced to evacuate the premises when President Reagan last week ordered Aeroflot offices here and in New York closed and airline employes sent home in retaliation for the shooting down of a South Korean jetliner Sept. 1 in which all 269 passengers and crew members were killed.
Aeroflot landings have been banned in the United States since January 1982 in response to the declaration of martial law in Poland. The airline's U.S. offices have been devoted mainly to booking connections with Aeroflot flights that land in Canada and other countries.
Until an official ejected uninvited guests and drew a curtain across the front door at 1101 16th St. NW, the mood was festive, despite the history of violence and discord that surrounds Aeroflot's presence in Washington--a history written on the pebbled facade of the building, in the form of pocked concrete and dented window frames. Since the downing of Korean Air Line's Flight 007, District police have restricted access to the sidewalk in front of the Aeroflot offices; and according to a security guard at the building, four bomb threats have been received.
But yesterday no yellow tape cordoned off the block and the doors of Aeroflot stood open, until somebody thought better. The blue and white Aeroflot signs had been removed earlier in the week, but passersby could stop to mark the small, desultory details that signal the estrangement of large and powerful nations: A map of the world papered one of the office's walls, and workers painstakingly peeled off the tape showing the air routes that once joined the Soviet Union and the United States.
In the course of the morning, the sidewalk resembled an impromptu flea market as lamps were carried out, and desks piled up. A few notebooks full of Russian scribblings were left for garbage. Posters and paintings were lifted off the walls, and some Russians walked back to the nearby embassy on 16th Street with rolled-up maps and posters. Mailbags were wheeled out on hand carts, telex equipment was loaded into a silver truck. A cardboard figure of a Soviet stewardess lay on her side, smiling at a pile of plaster.
"I hope the good times can come again," said Yevgeniy G. Vtyurin, third counsel at the embassy, as he helped supervise the dismantling of the office. Vtyurin, at 6 feet 7 inches, is better known as the captain of the embassy volleyball team, whose arch-rivals work for the U.S. State Department.
The last thing to go was a 6-by-8-foot colored-tile portrait of Lenin that remained to the end, not for any sentimental reason but because it was bolted to the wall and was apparently as heavy as a truckload of gravel.
"It will be moved, I don't know where," Vtyurin said, as a team of workers unscrewed the frame of the portrait. "It was a present from the artist."
Officials at the National Soft Drink Association said they have "several people" interested in leasing the space formerly occupied by the world's largest airline. A token of what is now the corner's volatile past could be found in the box of tiles from the Lenin portrait that sat out front of the Aeroflot offices yesterday; they had been knocked loose in a bomb attack last February.
"From the excitement standpoint, I'm sorry to see the Russians go," said security guard Dan New. "I've been right at the center of this thing. But as far as my job as a security officer is concerned, I'm glad to see them go."
He plucked a tile from the box and said to a woman heading to lunch, "Wanna souvenir?"