After the Great Reforms of the 1860s – 1870s the Russian government embarked on the construction of a modern nation-state and was faced with the need to unify all parts of the empire administratively, culturally, legally, and socially. The new ethno-confessional policy in Russian historiography is often called Russification because the order established after the Great Reforms in the Great Russian provinces served as a model for the transformation of all parts of the empire. The Russification policy included many aspects, including Russifying [obrusenie] - the introduction of the Russian language as obligatory in the record keeping of public institutions, in court and administration, in education and everyday life. While the policy of Russifying has found ample reflection in the historiography, its results have been insufficiently studied. The purpose of this article is to fill this gap and to try to assess the process of Russifying ethnic minorities at the imperial level, drawing upon the first general census of the Russian Empire in 1897. The analysis has led to the conclusion that the policy of Russifying did not provide the expected results.