This drama explores the way that war tears families apart. This is a recurring theme in American Westerns, for example in The Searchers in which John Wayne's character Ethan Edwards' homecoming is marred by bitterness at the Confederate defeat in the American Civil War and turns him into a revenge obsessed vigilante.
Hatred is set in a small village in the Ukraine, in which dying man Bulgya tries to reconcile his three estranged sons, who have been scattered by the Russian Civil War. The elder son, Stepan served with the White Army, the middle son Fyodor served with the Red Army while the youngest, Mitka left home with no allegiances and no idea where to go. Contrary to Bulgya's hopes, the reunion is a cool one.
When Bulgya dies, the brothers are drawn together. They bury their father and promptly leave the village. But as soon as they pass the gates, a band of horsemen in Red Army uniforms burst into the village, killing the villagers, and burning their homes. The brothers set off in pursuit without any idea of who they are chasing. Are they really Red Army officers? Or are they White Guards in disguise? Eventually Stepan recognises a fellow soldier from the White Guards and realises his loyalties are divided. He tries to play both sides, first betraying his brothers to the White Guards, and then helping them to escape. Fyodor and Mitka take a White Colonel prisoner, and on his way from the estate, Stepan hears gunshots. Rushing off after them, he realises he has become a stranger to the Whites as well.