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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Romanians Celebrate Ceausescu

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Nostalgic communists paid homage at the grave of executed Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu on his birthday and leading members of the ruling left-wing party waxed lyrical about his reign.

Some 150 men, women and children paid their respects at his Bucharest grave Wednesday with flowers, portraits and flags to mark what would have been Ceausescu's 76th birthday.

Waving the red flag of the ousted Communist Party, they lit candles on the grave, marked by a simple cross in the Ghencea cemetery. Ceausescu's wife Elena is also buried nearby.

Ceausescu was ousted and shot by firing squad in Eastern Europe's bloodiest anti-Communist rebellion in December 1989.

He was branded one of the 20th century's most brutal despots, having led the region's most oppressive police state.

Leading figures in the ruling Party of Social Democracy, or PSD, which is comprised mostly of former Communist apparatchiks, heaped praise on the dictator's "socialist achievements" in an article printed in the left-wing Vremea daily on Wednesday.

"He was a Romanian patriot, he can stand in history alongside King Carol the First," waxed PSD senator Gheorghe Dumitrascu, who is known for his conservative leanings.

He omitted reference to the thousands of people who were jailed or killed under the Communists for their dissent, and to the poverty caused by Stalinist economic policies.