The U.S.-Soviet summit Washington hosts this week will unfold in a world and a city that has changed enormously since the last time Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was in town and stole hearts with his impromptu gestures of friendship.

Since his visit in December 1987, world attention has been elsewhere -- on revolutions in Eastern Europe and German reunification, on drug trafficking in Latin America and drug-related violence in the United States, on Japan's economic might and the growing U.S. deficit.

But for five days, beginning Wednesday night with the touchdown of Gorbachev's 18-plane convoy at Andrews Air Force Base and ending Sunday when he flies to Minnesota, world attention comes back to Washington, to words spoken and decisions made here by two superpowers.

Arms control, Lithuanian independence, the NATO alliance, air transport, human rights, Soviet Jewish emigration and the state of the Soviet economy are on the agenda.

In between the leaders' seven hours of scheduled private meetings, the public and 5,000 journalists will crane for glimpses of the two men and form, change or affirm their impressions.

For 73 percent of Americans, the impression of Gorbachev is a good one, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll conducted May 17 through 21. The poll found that 80 percent had the same favorable impression of the American president.

In Washington and elsewhere, the flood of daily news reports from Moscow has turned Gorbymania into Gorbynormalcy. The level of excitement here surrounding this summit is muted in comparison with his 1987 trip. Stores are not stocking shelves with souvenirs. Classes are not planning field trips. And although more groups have applied for protest permits this time than last, protest organizers say the number of people expected to gather in outrage will be smaller.

There is a sober preoccupation with the political decisions Gorbachev may make at home, but also great admiration for the way he has already changed the world.

"He's with us," said Todd Cording, 14, an Arlington student.

"He's had an impact on me," said John Williams, who shook hands with Gorbachev in 1987, an experience that steered his law studies to the international arena.

"Americans view him somewhat as a savior," said Tom Kouyeas, a local Korean War veteran. "D.C. may be a little bit low-key."

The summit will be the second meeting for the two men during Bush's presidency. Gorbachev's last visit to Washington, for meetings with President Reagan, was filled with impromptu acts that captured the limelight, including the moment when he popped out of his limousine at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW to talk to passersby.

This trip is expected to be sparse on diversions.

Much of Gorbachev's "free time" -- four hours on Thursday and Friday afternoons each, is likely to be filled with preparations for the talks, said a State Department official. The Soviet Embassy, which has received more than 200 requests for meetings with the Gorbachevs, has not released a schedule.

Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, plan to be hosts at a lunch Thursday for 70 American intellectuals and to visit the Library of Congress, the official said.

On Friday, First Lady Barbara Bush and Raisa Gorbachev will speak at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The Gorbachevs have asked to meet with "a typical American family" in Minnesota and will lunch with the governor. In the San Francisco area, they will visit Stanford University, have breakfast with Reagan and may do some sightseeing, said the State Department official. Gorbachev will speak to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

As for shopping trips by Raisa Gorbachev: One city official involved in planning said he was told to prepare for a shopping spree in Washington. The State Department said that is unlikely.

"This is serious business. This is work time," said Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed, U.S. chief of protocol.

In contrast to 1987, this trip is an official state visit, which means it will follow the detailed protocol draped over every head of state.

Because Gorbachev is who he is, the summit also will be wrapped in a shield of security that has been worked out with Soviet advance teams and nearly every federal, state and local police agency.

For security reasons, when Gorbachev or Bush moves, so moves the city, or at least the traffic. Streets will be closed for motorcades and in the event of large protests, police said.

The District government began preparations last week. City workers have filled potholes in the alley next to the embassy. The streets most likely to be traveled by Gorbachev will be washed, and crews have been inspecting sewers and then sealing all manhole covers along them.

Gorbachev is expected to zoom into town at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, bringing with him everything from the equipment needed to secure telephone parleys to the china upon which President Bush's dinner will be served at the embassy Friday night.

There will be a red carpet at Andrews Air Force Base. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and his wife, Susan, will be there, as will up to 16 Soviet diplomats and various U.S. dignitaries.

With 250 aides in tow, Gorbachev will be rushed into the nation's capital in one of his six Soviet-made ZIL limousines, guarded by more than 35 U.S. security vehicles, local SWAT teams and an air shield of Secret Service helicopters.

He has declined an invitation to stay at Blair House and will stay instead at the embassy. The 250 other Soviets will split up. Some will go to the Soviet's Wisconsin Avenue complex, some will go to the embassy, but most will live at the Madison Hotel on 15th and M streets NW. The hotel will have an embassy designation, which means demonstrators must stay 100 feet away.

More than half of the hotel's 368 rooms will be filled with Gorbachev's political, economic and defense experts, his security agents, protocol officers, technicians, his spin doctors, translators and the chefs who will prepare the Soviet return state dinner for the Bushes and guests.

The Soviet entourage will eat three meals a day at the Madison, each time in a different room, said a source. They will get bottled water to avoid disgestion problems and lots of fresh orange juice because they like it. "They don't have outrageous demands. They love fish, meat; they like gravies," said a source.

Many of the 171 Soviet journalists will stay at the Vista Hotel, around the corner.

George Washington University's multi-sports complex has been turned into the international media center. Workers installed 1,150 phone lines and more than 30,000 square feet of carpet on the basketball courts that will become the White House briefing room and the squash and racquetball courts that will become media offices.

In 1987, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators chanted their disapproval of Soviet policies during the summit. They were Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, supporters of Soviet Jewish emigration, of Ethiopian and Afghan sovereignty, of more research on AIDS.

Scheduled events begin tomorrow with a protest by the Joint Baltic American National Committee at Lafayette Square across from the White House. Vietnamese, Koreans, Palestinians, Cubans and Turks will join ranks at times during the five-day visit. A Russian rock band will sing in the park and collect clean syringes to take home to try to help prevent the spread of AIDS.

"We're using every available space," said Sandra Alley, a U.S. Park Service spokeswoman. "We have had to double-check our maps to make sure we're not putting people in flower beds."