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Now offering CentOS 6

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I have never been running my own VPS, but looks like I may need to upgrade soon and now trying to decide if I'll be able to manage it properly.

I'm using HawkHost shared services for 3+ years, but everything is pre-configured there and it's CloudLinux.

So could you please advice: which OS is the better option, if amount of memory is low (most basic VPS with 256 or 384 MB of RAM)?

CentOS 5 or 6? Or Debian 5? (I don't think that I'll be considering Fedora, Ubuntu or Gentoo)

According to your experience, do these OSs somehow differ in speed and memory requirements?

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If you're using shared hosting and upgrading to a VPS, odds are you're going to want to use cPanel/WHM on the VPS as well. In that case CentOS 6 is going to be your best bet, as Debian is not a supported platform for cPanel/WHM :)

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