It has been known as Group B, Group 2, Class B, and Class A, group 2 before being renamed First League in 1971. The number of teams playing at this level fluctuated significantly during the history of Soviet football. In 1940s-1970s the league frequently consisted of several groups. The group winners qualified for the final tournament.
1936-1940 Group B (no competition in 1938)
1945-1949 Second Group
1950-1962 Class B
1963-1970 Second Group (Class A)
1971-1991 First League
One unusual feature of the league was one that have taken place before 1989. The Soviet Football Union tried to eliminate the growing amount of drawn games, thus, intensify the competition. The participated clubs were receiving a point for each drawn game, but the amount of all their drawn games could not exceed a third of all their games played. After that they received no points for any further draws that they earned. In 1987, for example, FC Fakel Voronezh was relegated by being short of a point having received no points for their two extra drawn games. 
^Trudovye Reservy were replacing Dynamo Leningrad for several season. Later Dynamo was reinstated in their place.
^Torpedo was the winner of one of the two groups. Lokomotivi won the other. No final between them is recorded.
^After 1989 season teams from Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) and Georgia withdrew from the Soviet competitions. Only the two pro-Soviet, pro-Russian teams: Pardaugava (Riga) and Dinamo Sukhumi continued to participate.
^Four teams were promoted due to withdrawal of several teams prior to this season. The fourth team was Lokomotiv Moscow.