MOSCOW, DEC. 4 -- For those Soviets unaware that their leader is going to the United States next week, Soviet television is offering some hints.
For example, Walt Whitman is the choice for Saturday's poetry reading on the Moscow channel. This week's theme for television's 8th grade history class was the U.S. Civil War. And in case anyone is still left wondering by Monday night, when Mikhail Gorbachev lands in Washington, there will be a concert on Soviet television by a student orchestra from Provo, Utah.
Americana is definitely the "in" theme here these days, although Soviet publicists are careful to point out that no one is about to go overboard: one of the featured programs for the presummit weekend has Phil Donahue interviewing Arnold Lockshin, an American biologist who defected to the Soviet Union a year ago to flee what he called a campaign of persecution by U.S. security forces.
But Lockshin's view of the United States will come on the heels of a series of more neutral portraits: scenes of Thanksgiving dinner in Connecticut and a tour of The Washington Post's newsroom were shown recently on the main evening news program, "Vremya." Even the trendy "Before and After Midnight" show chimed in on the U.S. theme last Saturday, interviewing the Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report.
There are also American-Soviet retrospectives, themes from the days of the World War II alliance and the detente of the 1970s. "Meeting on the Elba," a 1949 movie about the encounter of U.S. and Soviet troops at the war's end, has been shown twice this week. The last scene is Ivan shouting out to Joe: "Remember, Joe, the most important question before mankind is the friendship of the Soviet and American people!"
A 1976 joint production of "Blue Bird," a Russian fairy tale, starring Elizabeth Taylor, will be shown Sunday. A documentary on the history of the Moscow-Washington relationship is scheduled for Saturday.
It is normal for Soviet state television to hold up a mirror to the Kremlin's foreign policy: residents can always tell that a high-level French visitor is in Moscow if television airs a prime-time concert by singer Mireille Mathieu. The Soviet-Indian cultural festival, one of the products of Gorbachev's visit to India a year ago, is still going strong, recently boosted by Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov's official visit to New Delhi.
But given the importance of the Gorbachev visit, the American tilt is particularly pronounced here and promises to get even stronger next week when viewers of the educational channel get "Jack London: Pages From His Work and Life" on Tuesday, and similar programs on Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway on other nights, plus a program on John Reed, journalist, author and the only American buried in the Kremlin wall.
The occasion is also a good showcase for other forms of American art. Jazz bands and other American artists are having a run here now, and a visiting Smithsonian exhibit of American painting from 1840 to 1910 has been given a heavy dose of publicity.
On the political side, the Soviet press has been filling up with commentary on the coming Washington visit. President Reagan's written interview with the government newspaper Izvestia ran this evening, without any commentary to undercut its glowing description of computers, compact discs, car phones and other luxuries of American life.
"Optimism Without Illusion" is the title of an article on the state of U.S.-Soviet affairs in the Literary Gazette: the title more or less sums up the tone of presummit coverage.
Even the official news agency Tass, known for its ham-handed cliches about seamier sides of American life, has caught the trend: no more items like "U.S.A.: Suppression of Trade Unions." Instead, in a single evening this week, Tass churned out these pieces: "U.S.S.R.-U.S.A.: Cooperation of Libraries," "Cooperation of Soviet and American Biologists" and "Cooperation Between Ophthalmologists," an item about an exchange between Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Odessa Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases and Tissue Therapy.