Ashkenazic Jews generally inhabited all of Europe, except for Iberia and the Mediterranean lands. Yiddish folklore displays a high consciousness of the regional variations among Ashkenazic Jews. Some of the most prominent markers of variation are dialect and culinary style. In recent times, these regional variations have become hypostatized into a contrast between "Litvaks"—Jews from the northeastern portion of the Russian Pale of Settlement (those eastern portions of the Russian Empire to which Jewish residents were legally confined), comprising historic Lithuania—and "Galicianers"—Jews in the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. Other ethnically significant regional designations include White Russia, the Ukraine, Bukovina, Hungary, and central ("Congress") Poland.
Ashkenazic Jewry since the late nineteenth century has been overwhelmingly associated with eastern Europe. In the decades before World War II, Poland, with 3.3 million Jews, had a larger Jewish population than any other country in the world. Other nations with large pre-World War II Jewish populations were Hungary (825,000), Romania (609,000), Germany (566,000), and France (350,000). In 1986, Poland had only 6,000 Jews, Hungary 80,000, Romania 45,000, and Germany 38,000. The largest population remaining in pregenocide "Ashkenazic" lands is located in the nations that were previously republics of the Soviet Union, especially Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine; though the Jews there are currently emigrating in large numbers. Major populations of descendants of Ashkenazic immigrants are located in Israel, the United States, France, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and Latin America. Except in Israel and to a much lesser degree France, the ethnic designation "Ashkenazic" (insofar as it ever had significant currency) has lost ground to the more general designation "Jewish."