Jim Oberg is a space expert and written about Soviet and Russian space missions. He has an awful looking website but if you scroll down past the UFO stuff there are pictures about how the Soyuz is supposed to re-enter. It stays connected as three pieces just before hitting significant air, at least that's the way I understand it.
Oberg's IEEE Spectrum article "Internal NASA Documents Give Clues to Scary Soyuz Return Flight" has some "interesting" comments back and forth between Oberg and a reader accusing him of being overly dramatic.
One of the links from Oberg's comments takes you to this translation of a Russian news account of farmers coming to the aid of the Soyuz.
On the ground there was a black apparatus, which looked like a pot. A moment we approached there was a boom. We jumped back. Immediately, a cover, which looked like a fry pan flew off and an antenna jumped out. The apparatus was so hot that ground started burning. We were waiting what would happen next. Then a man fell out of the pot. He was in the cosmonaut outfit. As we approached we could read "Yuri Malenchenko." "We are cosmonauts," he told us, neither his hands or feet were moving. He was pale and sweaty. We put him on the ground, gave a pillow under his head, while he asked to get others out. There were two women. I carried in my hands Peggy (Whitson) and So-yeon Yi, who appeared from the capsule. The American removed her glove and shook my hand. I said that this is Kazakhstan, Aitekibisky Region, but she did not understand Russian. Neither did So-yeon Yi, so I mostly communicated with Malenchenko. He asked us to take some gadget out of the capsule. The capsule was very small, while all our guys were huge. We picked the skinniest in our brigade -- Kanat Kydyralin -- he pulled the radio and some other electronic device.
You can see how small the pot (to hold three adults!) is here.