High-resolution satellite remote sensing analysis (n = 637 lakes) and field measurements (n = 29 lakes) of two peat plateau areas in northeast European Russia were carried out to investigate lake morphology, map shoreline erosion indicators and assess possible orientation patterns in lake and shore morphology. The study includes the first detailed characterisation of the shape and size of thermokarst lakes in organic terrain. The area covered by lakes is 7.0 per cent and 13.6 per cent, and median lake size is 184 m2 and 265 m2, respectively, for the two study areas. In both areas, most lakes have a similar northwest to southeast orientation, and shores most commonly face northeast or southwest. The shores are generally steeper and have more cracks and lake depths are greater along shores facing northeast or southeast, and along the shorelines of larger lakes. Shores with a peat substrate are more heterogeneous than those with a mineral substrate in terms of steepness, cracks and water depths. Since the lakes are generally small, the shoreline/area ratio is high and a large part of the peat plateau areas can potentially be affected by shoreline erosion. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.