It's a little like the dog that didn't bark: the Soviet Politburo portraits that didn't show.
Whatever new party leader Yuri Andropov does or does not say in a Dec. 21 speech marking the 60th anniversary of Soviet statehood, it is differences in style of leadership that have so far been most evident in the run-up to the holiday.
Few would be more jolting than the absence of the large portraits of Politburo members that always in the past have gone up in Moscow a day or two before official occasions.
At least by the evening of Dec. 20, the portraits had not gone up at two sites where they have traditionally appeared.
Whether the relatively lower profile image of the post-Brezhnev leadership will outlast the immediate post-Brezhnev period is an open question.
A senior official says that ''obviously'' portraits of Mr. Andropov will appear more and more as the new team settles in, but adds: ''He (Andropov) genuinely is a man who is not terribly fond of such fanfare.''
Moscow and Peking are talking more nicely to each other nowadays. But relations still haven't thawed sufficiently for the Chinese to send a Communist Party delegation to the Soviet anniversary celebrations.
Peking will be represented on a ''state-to-state'' basis at a lower level, diplomats say, probably by the Chinese ambassador here.
A second round of Soviet-Chinese talks on normalizing relations is slated to begin in the near future.
But the expectation among diplomats - seconded privately by a senior Soviet official in remarks to the Monitor a few weeks ago - is that even should relations gradually improve, party-to-party ties would be among the last areas to show the change.
In a further personnel shift under new Soviet leader Andropov, an economic expert promoted last month to membership on the Communist Party Secretariat is heading a reorganized ''economic department'' there.
Nikolai Ryzhkov, a former deputy head of the state economic planning organization, was named to the nine-member Secretariat shortly after Mr. Andropov's elevation to the party leadership. At that time, senior officials said privately he would be handling the main economic portfolio within the Secretariat.
In apparent keeping with that role, Mr. Ryzhkov has been named head of the Economic Department attached to the Secretariat. This change was disclosed by his office, when contacted by the Maonitor.
His office said the Economic Department had replaced what was previously called the department for planning and financial affairs. The former department's chief has become Mr. Ryzhkov's deputy.
One name on the lengthy foreign guest list for the anniversary celebrations may irk an influential Arab regime Moscow would like to woo - Saudi Arabia.
The Soviets have long wanted renewed diplomatic relations with the generally pro-Western Saudi regime. Although there has been no visible sign that this is around the corner, the Saudi foreign minister did make a pioneer visit to Moscow a few weeks back as part of an Arab League delegation.
Now, Moscow has announced that among delegations arriving for state anniversary celebrations is a group from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. This leftist organization opposing the moderate Bahraini regime is precisely the kind that most tends to unsettle officials in Bahrain's neighbor-state and ally, Saudi Arabia.
Arab diplomatic sources, while stressing that the future of Saudi-Soviet relations depends on weightier issues than an official birthday guest list, did find the Bahraini group's inclusion odd in light of the Saudi foreign minister's recent visit.