The object of this article is to study Russian ‘nationality policy’. It investigates the social content of the concept of ‘the Pole’ in the Northwest Territory in the 1860s, in the interpretation of state officials and influential publicists. The study is also to reveal the treatment of the Lithuanians and Belorussians (i.e., peasants) and to establish whether they were treated as the allies of the regime or identified with ‘the Poles’. A conclusion is reached that in the 1860s a tendency (but not a general rule) prevailed that any Catholic, born in the Northwest Territory and not belonging to the peasant estate, was considered a Pole. That definition was current in the political conception of the nation prior to the modern times. Thus, at least in the 1860s the strategy propagated by Mikhail Katkov and other representatives of the Russian ruling elite to distinguish between Catholicism and Polis/mess did not gain ground.