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MOSCOW, December 24. /ITAR-TASS/. It's the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Republic.
Population: around 540,000. And it's cold.
Major centers include Salekhard, the world's only city on the Arctic Circle.
It's about 2,400 kilometers from Moscow.
Fifty-eight municipalities dot the landscape. Forty-five of them are villages.
And pollsters rating social well-being say it's the happiest place in Russia, outstripping the northern capital in St. Petersburg. Even mighty Moscow.
Their contentment is mapped in an enquiry about Russian citizens' assessments of whether conditions where they live are improving or getting worse — and what they think about the performance of those running their localities.
Seventy-nine regions have been probed in a second assessment compiled by the Civil Society Development Foundation on the strength of data from the Public Opinion Foundation.
And the verdict overall is that life is improving, the researchers found. Positive opinion was recorded in St. Petersburg, the North Caucasus Karachai-Cherkessia republic, Samara and Nizhny Novgorod regions, newcomers swelling the number of happiest regions to 18. It's a reflection, the pollsters say, of better public perception about those in power locally - a lessening of what is rated "the protest potential".
But it's not all good news. Certain regions are taking a gloomier view and slipping into not-so-happy company. Southern Russia's Astrakhan slid 15 points to a disappointed 45 in the chart. Far eastern Sakhalin tumbled 20 points to 44, swapping its previous slot among the contented to join those thinking the worst.
Astrakhan took a dismal view of Mayor Mikhail Stolyarov, detained in November on a corruption charge. In Sakhalin, protest sentiment lamented less-than-satisfactory delivery by local authorities and reproached the governor for profligate spending of budget funds.
At the top of the scale, happy locals gave Yamalo-Nenets 85 points, well up on St. Petersburg's 74 and outclassing Moscow's meager 71. Views of folk in the North Caucasus Chechen republic, Ingushetia and the scarcely populated northern territories of Chukotka and Nenets remained a mystery to researchers, looking in vain for chartable data on life in those parts.
Demographers and social scientists now have a map for anyone looking for a bettter place to spend their days - and which ones to avoid.
The winners' lineup includes Siberia's Kemerovo and Tyumen regions, scoring 74 points along with St. Petersburg. Karachai-Cherkessia republic and Tatarstan managed 73 points, Samara logged 72 while Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and the Tuva republic won 71 points each.
Bashkortostan republic, lying between the Volga river and the Urals, and Russia's Krasnodar territory follow with 69 points, Mordovia republic and Siberia's Khakassia recording 68 and Ulyanovsk region achieving 67. Kaluga region, the northern Komi republic and Chuvashia scored 66 points.
A second positive-rating group comprised 36 regions. Lower scores assembled 19 regions followed by six less-than-average performers closing the chart.