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    MOSCOW, December 28 (RIA Novosti) - Most Russians have an optimistic outlook for the year ahead, pollsters say.

    According to a survey conducted earlier this month by the monitoring center ROMIR, 44 percent of the Russian population believe they will be better off in 2005 while 41 percent think their life will neither improve nor get worse next year. Inhabitants of southern Russia pin higher hopes on the upcoming year than fellow countrymen living in the north: as many as 56 percent of the southerners anticipate that their life will improve in 2005.

    People in smaller, provincial communities are generally more upbeat about next year that dwellers of major megalopolises. Among these latter, 18 percent do not expect the year 2005 will bring them anything good. In towns with populations of 100,000 to 500,000, by contrast, as many as 88 percent believe that the new year will be as good as the previous one, or maybe even better.

    For its survey, the ROMIR center interviewed 1,500 adults in 100 urban and rural communities across Russia.

    Another national survey, conducted by the Levada Center December 10 to 14, indicates that 72 percent of the Russians expect 2005 to be good or pretty good while another 13 percent do not anticipate anything positive in the year ahead and 2 percent have a gloomy outlook on it.

    A vast majority of Russians-76 percent-assess the year 2004 as good enough, the Levada Center says. Among its most significant events, they mention the Beslan school siege, the Russian presidential polls, the terrorist acts in the Moscow subway, the two airplane crashes caused by Chechen suicide bombers, the soaring oil prices on the world's markets, and the political crisis in Ukraine.

    The Levada Center interviewed a sample of 1,600 adults across the nation.

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