Abstract. Soils are an important compartment of ecosystems and have the ability to immobilize chemicals preventing their movement to other environment compartments. Predicted climatic changes together with other anthropogenic influences on Arctic terrestrial environments may affect biogeochemical processes enhancing leaching and migration of trace elements in permafrost-affected soils. This is especially important since the Arctic ecosystems are considered to be very sensitive to climatic changes as well as to chemical contamination. This study characterizes background levels of trace metals in permafrost-affected soils of the Lena River Delta and its hinterland in northern Siberia (73.5° N–69.5° N) representing a remote region far from evident anthropogenic trace metal sources. Investigations on total element contents of iron (Fe), arsenic (As), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co) and mercury (Hg) in different soil types developed in different geological parent materials have been carried out. The highest concentrations of the majority of the measured elements were observed in soils belonging to ice-rich permafrost sediments formed during the Pleistocene (ice-complex) in the Lena River Delta region. Correlation analyses of trace metal concentrations and soil chemical and physical properties at a Holocene estuarine terrace and two modern floodplain levels in the southern-central Lena River Delta (Samoylov Island) showed that the main factors controlling the trace metal distribution in these soils are organic matter content, soil texture and contents of iron and manganese-oxides. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) revealed that soil oxides play a significant role in trace metal distribution in both top and bottom horizons. Occurrence of organic matter contributes to Cd binding in top soils and Cu binding in bottom horizons. Observed ranges of the background concentrations of the majority of trace elements were similar to background levels reported for other pristine arctic areas and did not exceed mean global background concentrations examined for the continental crust as well as for the world's soils.